Mission to Mars…

The US National Research Council have expressed doubts about the extent of US involvement in the planned joint ESA/Nasa rover mission to Mars, as well as two subsequent orbiter missions – one to the Jovian moon Europa and the other to Uranus.

But, for now, Mars remains under close scrutiny.  The latest false colour image from the Hi-RISE camera on Nasa’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter shows the Mars rover Opportunity at the edge of a football-field sized crater, Santa Maria, where it’s been exploring since before the New Year.  Here’s a link to the catalogue image.  Opportunity’s location is indicated.  Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona.

Here’s a close-up centred on the rover.

Opportunity completed its primary three-month mission in April 2004, its been bonus missions all the way and it’s still going strong.  Next destination for Opportunity is the crater Endeavour where spectroscopy has identified phyllosilicates, formed when conditions were wetter…

Its twin rover, Spirit, has not been as fortunate.

And ESA’s Mars Express orbiter, launched in 2003, has also been sending back images.  Including this wondrous one of an elongated impact scar south of the Huygens basin.  Credits: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin (G. Neukum)