NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance is set to hit the surface of the Red Planet on Feb. 18, 2021, and in addition to collecting stunning images as well as rock samples, it will also record some sounds. This rover comes equipped with microphones, which will mainly consist of the rover at work, wind and other ambient noise. One thing to note is that the same sound on Earth would be slightly different on Mars because of its atmosphere, which is only 1% as dense as ours. Read more for a previous sound sample from Mars and additional information.
Valles Marineris is currently the largest known canyon in the Solar System and it cuts a wide swath across the face of Mars. This grand valley extends over 3,000 kilometers long, spans as much as 600 kilometers across, and delves as much as 8 kilometers deep. For comparison, the Grand Canyon in Arizona spans 800 kilometers long, 30 kilometers across, and 1.8 kilometers deep. It is unknown how Valles Marineris formed, although a leading hypothesis holds that it started as a crack billions of years ago as the planet cooled. Read more to see two new images captured by NASA’s HiRise camera and for additional information.
NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover launched in July and reach the surface of the Red Planet on Feb. 18, 2021. This automobile-sized rover will search for signs of ancient microbial life using a coring drill at the end of its robotic arm. It has the capability to gather samples of Martian rock as well as regolith (broken rock / dust), and hermetically seal them in collection tubes. The rover can deposit these samples at designated locations on the Martian surface or store them internally. Read more for two videos and additional information.
NASA/JPL Caltech researchers are working with a team at Boston Dynamics to develop “Mars Dogs,” or autonomous robotic dogs that will be able to navigate the Red Planet’s rough terrain and its many underground caves. Similar to the Spirit, Opportunity, Curiosity, and Perseverance rovers, they’ll come equipped with a multitude of sensors capable of detecting obstacles as well as finding the most efficient paths or creating virtual maps in real-time of underground areas. Read more for a video and additional information.
SpaceX founder Elon Musk recently conducted an interview where he talked about artificial intelligence (AI) and space travel, with the focus being on how soon we’ll see humans on the surface of Mars. He stated that he’ll be first sending on uncrewed mission on Starship to land on Mars within the next two years, since the Earth-Mars synchronization, or their relative orbits around the Sun, occurs every 26 months. Read more for two videos and additional information.
Photo credit: ESA
The European Space Agency’s (ESA) Rosalind Franklin ExoMars rover now has a miniature counterpart that you can 3D print at home, called ExoMy. All of the blueprints and software for this rover can be downloaded for free so that anyone with access to a 3D printer can assemble and program their own ExoMy. When built, it stands 42cm high and reproduces many key features of its 2m tall ExoMars, including a drill, solar panels across its back wings and a camera mast. Read more for a video, additional pictures and information.
Photo credit: Peta Pixel
Astrophotographer Jean-Luc Dauvergne spent 6-nights at the Pic-du-Midi observatory in the French Pyrenees capturing the best global map of Mars yet from Earth. His team used the observatory’s 1-meter telescope and its native 17000mm focal length. The telescope was originally built to help NASA researchers prepare for the Apollo missions in the early 1960s, and to this day, it’s still one of the best in the world to study planetary surfaces in the visible part of the spectrum. Read more for a video and additional information.
Photo credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/J.D. Gammell
Unlike other rovers, NASA’s DuAxel consists of two-wheeled rovers, each called Axel. How does it work? The rover stops, lowers its chassis and anchors it to the ground before separating into two halves. When the rear half locks firmly in place, the forward half undocks and rolls away on a single axle. A tether connects the two, but unspools as the lead axle approaches the hazard and rappels down the slope, using instruments stowed in its wheel hub to study inaccessible terrain on Mars and beyond. Read more for a video, additional pictures and information.
Elon Musk’s SpaceX is planning to launch its first uncrewed mission to Mars in less than four years. Why so long? Well, the opportunity to launch a mission to Mars comes every 26 months, since Earth would be closest to the red planet at that time. Musk believes that human beings need to establish a permanent and self-sustaining presence on Mars to ensure the continuance of consciousness as we know it in case of a catastrophic event that leaves Earth uninhabitable. Read more for a video and additional informaiton.
Photo credit: Steve Lee, Univ. Colorado/Jim Bell, Cornell Univ./Mike Wolff, SSI/NASA
Scientists published new research today in the journal Nature Astronomy that indicates the evidence of a buried reservoir of super-salty water near the south pole Mars, thus vastly improving the likelihood that the planet might harbor microscopic life of its own. This underground “lake” of liquid water pooled beneath frozen layers of sediment near the Martian south pole, similar to the subglacial lakes found beneath the Antarctic and the Greenland ice sheets on Earth. Read more for a video and additional information.