The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) has been studying the red planet since 2006, making amazing discoveries the whole time. As a testament to how much there still is to learn about Mars, the MRO just spotted signs of a huge volume of water ice on the planet. Scientists believe this may be the remains of Mars’ long-lost ice caps.
No amount of money will buy you a ticket to Mars right now, but SpaceX CEO Elon Musk says the cost of relocating to another planet could be $500,000 in the not-too-distant future. If you decide you don’t like it on Mars, no problem; you can come back to Earth for free. Musk cautions that his ballpark estimate is highly dependent on volume, though.
NASA is finally saying goodbye to its Opportunity rover on Mars after spending nearly a year trying to reestablish communication with the silent robot. A team of engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) sent one final radio command to the rover last night but did not receive a response. Now, NASA will stop trying to communicate with Opportunity, effectively bringing the rover’s 15-year mission on Mars to an end.
Hacking NASA’s Curiosity rover let it measure Martian gravity, even though it has no scientific instruments designed to do so. The measurements revealed a surprise at Gale crater. We can use gravity to probe the interior structure of a planet because the gravitational pull of a particular area depends on the type and density of the rocks there.
To fully appreciate the Martian landscape, one needs dimension and movement. In the video you see here, Finnish filmmaker Jan Fröjdman transformed HiRISE imagery into a dynamic, three-dimensional, overhead view of the Red Planet--no glasses required.
Scientists are still unsure if liquid water exists on Mars, but we know there’s plenty of water ice. The ice on Mars is usually diffuse and found in small pockets mixed with frozen carbon dioxide, but the Mars Express probe just beamed back images of a massive deposit of pristine water ice in an impact crater. This isn’t a new discovery, but it’s the best photo we’ve ever gotten of the Korolev crater.
Landing InSight on the surface of Mars was an incredible feat all by itself, but the robot has just successfully completed its first major mission milestone. After carefully surveying the nearby terrain, NASA pinpointed a location to deploy the lander’s Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS). InSight successfully placed the sensor on the surface as instructed.
Pictures from full-color Instrument Deployment Camera, which is mounted on the spacecraft’s 6-foot-long robotic arm, will help scientist ensure that the spots they pick will be sufficiently level and rock-free to accommodate the first instruments to be lifted up and placed down permanently on the surface of another planet.
We often hear about the dust storms and wind on Mars, but it’s hard to visualize conditions on the ground when the planet’s only inhabitants are robots. Today, the Curiosity rover has provided a handy visual example of how the wind blows on the red planet. The record consists of two images of a penny, one before the windy season and one after.
NASA’s InSight mission has successfully landed on the red planet, making it the first Mars landing for the agency in six years. With the solar panels deployed, it’s time for the probe to start doing some science. Well, it’s going to do some science. InSight has to do several months of prep work before most of its instruments will be ready to relay data back to Earth.