Chinese Mars Mission Sends Photos of the Red Planet

Tianwen-1 spacecraft in orbit around Mars. (Credit: China National Space Administration)

BEIJING (CNSA PR) — The China National Space Administration published on Saturday four pictures taken by its Tianwen 1 Mars mission, including the first full photo of the mission orbiter.

The color pictures show the orbiter flying around the Red Planet in an orbit, the ice cover on Mars’ north pole and a scene of a barren Martian plain.


Sensors Collect Crucial Data on Mars Landings with Arrival of Perseverance

The MEDLI2 hardware is visible on the Mars 2020 heat shield as the heat shield falls toward the surface of Mars. The critical MEDLI2 electronics, two of the seven heat shield pressure transducers; these measure the stagnation pressure during the hypersonic and supersonic phases of flight, and one of the 11 heat shield temperature locations can be seen. The copper-colored harness snaking around the heat shield is also evident. The circuitous path of the harness was to avoid the rover wheels and other items on the bottom of the rover. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

HAMPTON, Va. (NASA PR) — “Tango delta. Touchdown confirmed. Perseverance safely on the surface of Mars, ready to begin seeking the signs of past life.” For more than six years, the Mars Entry, Descent, and Landing Instrumentation 2 (MEDLI2) team waited to hear these words.


NASA’s InSight Detects Two Sizable Quakes on Mars

NASA’s InSight lander used a scoop on its robotic arm to begin trickling soil over the cable connecting its seismometer to the spacecraft on March 14, 2021, the 816th Martian day, or sol of the mission. Scientists hope insulating it from the wind will make it easier to detect marsquakes. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

The magnitude 3.3 and 3.1 temblors originated in a region called Cerberus Fossae, further supporting the idea that this location is seismically active.

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA’s InSight lander has detected two strong, clear quakes originating in a location of Mars called Cerberus Fossae – the same place where two strong quakes were seen earlier in the mission. The new quakes have magnitudes of 3.3 and 3.1; the previous quakes were magnitude 3.6 and 3.5. InSight has recorded over 500 quakes to date, but because of their clear signals, these are four of the best quake records for probing the interior of the planet.


NASA Establishes Board to Initially Review Mars Sample Return Plans

This illustration depicts NASA’s Perseverance rover operating on the surface of Mars. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has established a Mars Sample Return Program Independent Review Board to proactively assist with analysis of current plans and goals for one of the most difficult missions humanity has ever undertaken: the return of samples from another planet to study on Earth.


NASA Perseveres Through Pandemic, Looks Ahead in 2020, 2021

SpaceX Crew-1 astronauts Shannon Walker, Victor Glover, Michael Hopkins and Soichi Noguchi. (Credits: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — With 2020 more than half way through, NASA is gearing up for a busy rest of the year and 2021.

Following the recent successful launch of a Mars rover and safely bringing home astronauts from low-Earth orbit aboard a new commercial spacecraft, NASA is looking forward to more exploration firsts now through 2021.


Revived Interest in Mars Sample Return Mission

The Planetary Society’s Lou Friedman has an interesting post on the status of efforts by NASA and ESA to mount a Mars sample return (MSR) mission.

Friedman reports that although there is much interest in the idea, cost estimates keep growing because of the complexity of the effort. He reaches the following conclusions:

  1. There will never be enough money in the science budget for NASA to do a Mars Sample Return mission alone;
  2. The MSR mission will require international cooperation: technically, politically, and economically;
  3. MSR is not a single mission — it is multiple missions, or in NASA-speak, a program.

Offroad on the Red Planet

Cosmos magazine takes a look at what humans might drive around on the surface of Mars one day. Writer Michael Dumiak examines the MarsCruiserOne, a three- to four-person rover designed by Architecture and Vision of Munich.

The article contains some very cool illustrations of the rover, which was designed by German Andreas Vogler and his Rome-based partner Arturo Vittori, whose brother Roberto is an ESA astronaut.

“I’m worried about it tipping over,” says JPL’s Brent Sherwood, who is editing a collection of space design concepts. “But it is very cool – one of the more advanced designs I’ve seen.”

Carnival of Space #44: The Angry Red Planet Edition

Bad Astronomy is hosting the Carnival of Space, a regular collection of space-related articles. The 44th edition features just about everything you might want to know about the future of human exploration of Mars. Articles include:

    Stuart Atkinson writes about the Red Planet’s changing landscape
    Ian O’Neill discusses an early-warning system for solar flares to protect Martian colonists
    Colony Worlds has a piece on radiation hazards on other planets
    Ethan Siegel tells you why Mars colonists may go thirsty
    Nancy Atkinson discusses one-way, one-person trip to the Red Planet
    Next Big Future has a piece on how future explorers might travel to Mars using carbon nanotubes solar sails
    Mars Odyssey reviews how ISS experience could help us build a Martian spaceship
    And who will be first to Mars? Might it be an Indian or South Korean? Or a woman?

Check out these stories and more from the Carnival of Space at the Bad Astronomy site.