Heedless of the (now-dissipating) dust storm, Curiosity has achieved its first successful drill into rocks that form the Vera Rubin ridge, and is hopefully on the way to a second. It took three attempts for Curiosity to find a soft enough spot, with Voyageurs and Ailsa Craig being too tough, but Stoer proved obligingly soft on sol 2136.
Three launches to the Moon and one each to Mercury and Mars; two arrivals at near-Earth asteroids; and an approach to an encounter with a distant Kuiper belt object are highlights we anticipate in 2018.
ESA issued an update on the Schiaparelli landing investigation today, identifying a problem reading from an inertial measurement unit as the proximate cause of the crash. Meanwhile, ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter is operating its science instruments for the first time this week, and HiRISE has released calibrated versions of the Schiaparelli crash site images.
Cassini is going to make a major change to its orbit, getting much close to Saturn, setting up 20 "F-ring" orbits. ExoMars will get two science orbits before beginning aerobraking. Long March 5 will have its first launch, while many Earth-observing missions, including Himawari-9 and GOES-R, will go up. But Juno science is on hold.
Following up the detection of the Schiaparelli crash site by Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter CTX, the higher-resolution HiRISE camera has now definitively identified the locations of lander impact site, parachute with backshell, and heat shield impact site on the Martian surface.
Just a day after the arrival of ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter and its lander Schiaparelli, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has taken a photo of the landing site with its Context Camera, and things do not look good.
The fate of the ExoMars lander, Schiaparelli, remains uncertain. European Space Agency mission controllers had been optimistic on Wednesday night that a definitive answer would be known by Thursday morning’s news briefing. However, although some more details have been made public about the lander’s descent, it is not yet clear whether it hit the martian surface at a speed it could not survive.
Today, the Opportunity rover attempted a difficult, never-before-possible feat: to shoot a photo of an arriving Mars lander from the Martian surface. Unfortunately, that attempt seems not to have succeeded. Opportunity has now returned the images from the observation attempt, but Schiaparelli is not visible.
Schiaparelli is GO for landing, and ExoMars TGO is GO for orbit insertion! When to expect ExoMars events: Schiaparelli separation, final trajectory maneuvers, landing events, orbit insertion, and press briefings.
ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter arrives on October 19, and it will deliver the Schiaparelli lander to its brief life on the Martian surface. Juno's headed into its science orbit, MOM has released science data, and New Horizons will finally finish downlinking Pluto flyby data.
This month we'll finally see JunoCam's first high-resolution images of Jupiter. We'll also see OSIRIS-REx making progress toward its September 8 launch. Both rovers are road-tripping at Mars, while ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter has completed a major mid-course correction ahead of its October arrival.
Today ESA released ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter's first photo of Mars, taken from a distance of 41 million kilometers. It's no more detail than you can get through a pair of a binoculars, just a little taste of what's to come.
May 2016 will be yet another month of fairly routine operations across the solar system -- if you can ever use the word "routine" to describe autonomous robots exploring other planets. ExoMars' cruise to Mars has started smoothly, and Juno is only two months away from Jupiter orbit insertion. Earthlings will witness a Mercury transit of the Sun on May 9.
The ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter and Schiaparelli lander are safely on their way to Mars! The two lifted off at 9:31 UTC today, March 14, 2016. Orbiter and lander will arrive at Mars on October 19 at approximately 16:00 UTC. The lander is expected to last about 3 days. The orbiter will spend a year aerobraking before beginning its science mission.
ESA's ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter and Schiaparelli lander are in the final preparations for a launch as early as Monday, toward an October 2016 Mars orbit insertion and landing in Meridiani Planum. Launch on a Proton rocket is expected at 09:31:42 UT Monday, March 14. A Breeze-M upper stage will send the spacecraft on to Mars, with separation at 20:13 UT.
Welcome to my monthly inventory of the 20-plus spacecraft actively exploring our solar system. Highlights of this month include the impending launch of the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter and Schiaparelli lander, currently planned for March 14, and the resumption of regular VMC Mars images by Mars Express.