As 2016 came to an end and 2017 rang in, Opportunity was working the first leg of the ascent up the rugged western rim of Endeavour Crater on her way to an ancient gully, the next scientific tour de force down the road, and the mission was closing in on its 13th anniversary of surface operations coming up in the New Year.
China released a new white paper on its policy and activities in space, outlining ambitious deep space exploration, human spaceflight and space science projects as major priorities for the years up to 2020 and beyond.
2016 marks the 25th anniversary of the creation of what has become one of the primary venues for the publication of research in planetary science: the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets. This occasion is a good opportunity to look back at what we have learned in this era of expanded exploration and to try to take a peek at the future.
It's been a drive-heavy two months for Curiosity. Since my last update, the rover has drilled at a site named Sebina, then traveled about 500 meters to the south across increasingly chunky-looking Murray rocks to a new attempted drill site at Precipice. They were planning to attempt a new drilling technique at Precipice, but encountered a new problem with the drill instead.
Opportunity has begun the ascent of the steep slopes here in the inner wall of Endeavour crater after completion of a survey of outcrops close to the crater floor. The goal now is to climb back to the rim, drive south, and arrive at the next major mission target on the rim before the next Martian winter.
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.
Opportunity spent the month of October on Spirit Mound studying the rich yet familiar geology at the first science stop on its 10th extended mission – pausing only to take a shot at freeze-framing part of the descent of Europe’s Schiaparelli lander.
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.
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.