Mars is ours for the forseeable future, NASA announced Tuesday with plans for a "robust" multi-year program that includes a 2020 launch date for a new robotic science rover.
With over-the-moon elation, the space agency reinforced its commitment to a Mars exploration program that meets "our nation's scientific and human exploration objectives," according to the official news release.
"The Obama administration is committed to a robust Mars exploration program," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said. "With this next mission, we're ensuring America remains the world leader in the exploration of the Red Planet, while taking another significant step toward sending humans there in the 2030s."
The "planned portfolio" includes:
- Curiosity and Opportunity rovers
- Two NASA spacecraft
- Contributions to one European spacecraft currently orbiting Mars
- 2013 launch of the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) orbiter to study the Martian upper atmosphere
- Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) mission, which will take the first look into the deep interior of Mars
- Participation in ESA's 2016 and 2018 ExoMars missions, including providing "Electra" telecommunication radios to ESA's 2016 mission and a critical element of the premier astrobiology instrument on the 2018 ExoMars rover
Knock knock — NASA's Opportunity rover has some Martian clay news for you.
Scientists said Tuesday at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco that Opportunity — the solar-powered six-wheeler that landed on Mars in 2004 (and has far outlasted its original, three-month mission) — uncovered hints of clay minerals along the western rim of the Endeavour crater.
Steve Squyres, the mission's principal investigator at Cornell University said, "If you are a geologist studying a site like this, one of the first things you do is walk the outcrop, and that's what we've done with Opportunity," reports NASA.
Two outcrops of high interest on Matijevic Hill are "Whitewater Lake" and "Kirkwood." Whitewater Lake is light-toned material that science team members believe may contain clay.Kirkwood contains small spheres with composition, structure and distribution that differ from other iron-rich spherules, nicknamed blueberries, that Opportunity found at its landing site and throughout the Meridiani Planum area it has explored. Squyres calls the Kirkwood spheres "newberries."
This is the first 360-degree panorama in color of the Gale Crater landing site taken by NASA's Curiosity rover. The panorama was made from thumbnail versions of images taken by the Mast Camera.
NASA takes the figurative phasers off stun as Curiosity, the world's coolest remote control vehicle, prepares to fire its space laser at an unsuspecting Martian rock next week.
Since landing in the Gale crater on the surface of Mars on Aug. 5, NASA's rover has been getting a full health checkup. Now, it's time for target practice.
Scientists said Friday they've selected a generic-looking rock about 10 feet away from the landing site to ready, aim, fire, and burn with a small hole.
Let's just hope the generic-looking rock they've selected isn't one of those generic-looking fakes with a hidden key inside that leads to some other part of Mars that's invisible or located in another dimension or something.
The laser is one of ten tools Curiosity will be using to study the planet in search of signs that the environment was favorable for microbial life.
This artist's animation of the NASA Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
NASA's Curiosity is getting up close and personal with the surface of the red planet, but the eye in the sky that helped get it there could be looking beyond the Gale Crater, if you ask it nicely, and in the right way.
"Explore Mars, one giant image at a time," is the HiRISE (High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment) motto, and project researchers continue to look to the home planet for input about where to point the camera.
KPCC reporters had been talking to Southland scientists and engineers and counting down the days until NASA's most ambitious rover yet — Curiosity — prepares to land on the Martian surface. Follow the series online.
With its Google Android shadow and Gabby Douglas landing, NASA's Mars rover Curiosity began sending images of itself in its surroundings within seconds of safely arriving on the surface of the red planet Sunday night/Monday morning.
Within two hours of settling in to its new Martian home, the world's coolest remote control vehicle transmitted to Mission Control — located at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena — a higher resolution image of Gale Crater taken by a Hazard Avoidance Camera (Hazcam).
Other shots show a towering mound they believe to be a three-mile high mountain called Mount Sharp. Both Gale Crater and Mount Sharp are of interest to geologists who can study them for insights into Mars' past.