An article published in the journal “Geophysical Research Letters” describes a research on silica halos discovered in the lower areas of the northern slopes of Aeolis Mons in the Gale Crater on Mars. A team of researchers led by Jens Frydenvang used the information gathered by NASA’s Mars Rover Curiosity to try to figure out for how long there was liquid water, concluding that the needed conditions lasted longer than expected.
Landers / Rovers
NASA’s Mars Rover Opportunity has begun its scientific work in yet another Mars area to be explored during a mission that has been going on for over 13 Earth’s years. This mission was extended for the tenth time in 2016 and now its goal is to study “Perseverance Valley”, an ancient valley on the inner slope of the Endeavor crater’s rim to figure out how it formed.
An article published in the journal “Science” describes a research on the atmosphere of the planet Mars that indicates the Sun’s wind and radiation as the principal culprits of the fact that today that atmosphere is so thin. A team led by Bruce Jakosky, principal investigator of NASA’s MAVEN space probe’s mission, examined the measurements of the existing gases estimating for example that 65% of argon present origininally got lost in space. This research confirms the one published in November 2015.
The Google Lunar XPRIZE announced the $1 million Diversity Prize, which will be split among the 16 teams participating in the competition. The most important announcement concerns the 5 teams that are advancing to the final phase of the competition having proved they have valid contracts for the launch of their vehicle to the Moon by December 31, 2016. The final goal is to bring a robotic spacecraft to the Moon that after the landing has to travel at least 500 meters on the surface and send images and data back to Earth.
The ESA and Roscosmos’ TGO (Trace Gas Orbiter) space probe and the lander Schiaparelli have reached Mars completing the first phase of the first mission within the ExoMars program, started with their launch on March 14, 2016. Schiaparelli had separated from the TGO on October 16 with some thrill because the maneuver was successful but its telemetry data arrived with considerable delay.