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)

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  • earther

    You forgot Odyssey!

    More immediately relevant than that 2018 (at best) mission, two missions should launch late this year. NASA is sending a big robot to the surface of Mars while Russia is going to try to bring back rocks from one of its moons. The Russians will also be carrying along smaller crafts and experiments built by other countries. And then a few smaller missions are planned for the middle of the decade. So whatever happens next, Mars is going to be crowded in the next few of years.

    It’s a shame they’re planning to drop the Jupiter mission. After Cassini’s stunning success, I would be more excited by a mission to the outer system than by another Mars rover. It wouldn’t cost that much compared to the world’s space budget, never mind the banksters’ mess.

  • tuatha

    I’m surorise that the Russians would bother with rocks from Mars’ moons as they are aklmost certainly merely captured asteroids, unrelated to the planet. They’re not even big enough to be round, Phoebes described as looking like a misshapen potato.
    The abandonment of the Jupiter mission is very short sighted, esp as Titan is at least as interesting as Mars, only the 5th major rocky body in the solar system, after Mercury, Moon, Earth & Mars, everything else is gas & heavywater.