An article published in the journal “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences” (PNAS) describes the unexpected discovery of a mineral called tridymite by the Mars Rover Curiosity in Gale Crater on Mars. The analysis of a sample from a rock called Buckskin revealed the presence of tridymite, which on Earth forms as a result of much more intense volcanic activity than that assumed esisted in the past on Mars.
Landers / Rovers
ESA and Roscosmos’ TGO spacecraft and Schiaparelli lander launched atop a Proton-M rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. After about 10 minutes, the Breeze M upper stage separated and began the ten and a half hours of maneuvers that will take them out of the Earth’s orbit and en route to the planet Mars.
The hopes to be able to contact the lander Philae on the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko’s surface have now faded and ESA is also pessimistic. DLS, the German space agency, runs the LCC (Lander Control Center) and in recent months tried to re-establish contact after Philae communicated for a while on several occasions but issued a statement declaring that it’s time to say goodbye to the lander.
The Mars Rover Opportunity landed on Mars January 25, 2004 at 05.05 UTC. Its mission went far beyond all expectations and after a few years we started taking it for granted. In 2010, the loss of its sister, the Mars Rover Spirit, reminded us that space missions are conducted in unforgiving environments and any problem can be fatal.
The Opportunity mission controllers tried to preserve the rover placing it on a sloping terrain during the Martian winters so that its solar panels can receive the most possible sunlight. Unfortunately, other problems have been limiting its efficiency for a long time.
An article published in the journal “Nature Communications” describes the discovery of a new type of rock on the Moon, precisely in Mare Imbrium. It was possible thanks to the data collected by the Chinese Yutu rover during its Chang’e 3 mission. In a crater called Zi Wei, Yutu found a type of basalt with a composition different from those collected in past decades during the American and Soviet Moon missions.