These days the world is looking in awe at the incredible images of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko from ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft. But it took Rosetta over ten years to arrive at the comet, during which time it got some great views of other worlds in our Solar System as well: Earth (a couple of times), the asteroids Lutetia and 2867 Steins, and, on this day in 2007, Mars!
The image above was captured by the Philae lander riding aboard Rosetta as the two spacecraft passed just 1,000 km (621 miles) over Mars on Feb. 24-25, 2007. The image shows one of Rosetta’s 14-meter (50-foot) -long solar panels with the surface of Mars below, showing the Mawrth Vallis region in the planet’s northern lowlands.
You may be looking at the faces of future Martians.
The video above, released Feb. 15, shows the results of the latest round of selections for the MarsOne mission: to establish living conditions on Mars and, eventually, send 24 individuals who will become the first permanent human residents on another planet.
(Note: being selected for MarsOne does not include a return ticket.)
If any of you remember this, back in Dec. 2010 Japan’s Venus Climate Orbiter spacecraft AKATSUKI (or Planet-C), after a five and a half month journey through space, failed to enter orbit around Venus due to a faulty thruster nozzle. It sailed right past the cloud-covered planet, going into orbit around the Sun. Fortunately, JAXA mission engineers were able to determine the cause of the problem and come up with some work-arounds for a second attempt when the spacecraft is aligned with Venus later this year.
While we have been getting most of our daily images of Mars from NASA’s Curiosity rover over the past couple of years, we shouldn’t forget that there’s still another rover keeping busy on the Red Planet: Opportunity, one of the twin Mars Exploration Rovers (MER-B), still exploring after 11 years!
To commemorate Opportunity’s upcoming landing anniversary on January 25, the MER team has released a panorama taken from the rover’s vantage point atop “Cape Tribulation,” part of the rim of the 14-mile-wide Endeavour Crater. Made of multiple images acquired on Jan. 6, 2015 – mission sol 3,894! – with the rover’s Pancam instrument (that is, its “eyes”) the image is presented in approximate true-color of what the scene would look like if we were standing there.
See the full panorama image below:
Remember Dawn, the spacecraft that showed us our first close-up images of asteroid/protoplanet Vesta when it entered orbit back in 2011? Well Dawn is still going strong, having left Vesta behind and now closing in on its next target: Ceres, a full-fledged dwarf planet and, at about 600 miles (965 km) wide, the largest object in the main asteroid belt. Once Dawn arrives at Ceres on March 6 it will be the first spacecraft to enter orbit around two different targets!*
But despite all its travels Dawn isn’t burning any liquid fuel to get where it needs to go. Instead, it’s using some “crazy engineering” – ion engines, which produce only a tiny amount of force but, in space and over the course of weeks and months (and years), add up to a lot of acceleration. Find out how this works below…
Every now and then I get unexpectedly caught up in a project that I originally intended to be a quick just-for-fun thing and ends up taking an hour and a half of my time (usually long after I should have gone to bed.) This was one of those.
Made up of 28 raw images acquired by Curiosity’s right Mastcam camera, this is a panorama of the rover’s surroundings in Gale Crater on mission Sol 844 – December 21, 2014 our time. The colors are what one would see in ambient Mars lighting… for a more Earth-like view, see below: