What's on Mars

NASA is gearing up for the landing of the Mars Science Laboratory, aka Curiosity rover, currently scheduled for August 6 at 1:31 AM EDT. I thought this would be a good time to look at what’s still working, whether in orbit or on the surface of the Red Planet.

  • The Opportunity rover.  This rover landed in January 2004 and like the Energizer bunny, is still going.  Long past the original three-month design lifetime, Opportunity has traveled 21.49 miles as of last week.
  • The 2001 Mars Odyssey spacecraft.  You think Opportunity‘s lasted a long time?  Odyssey‘s been in orbit since October 2001 and is still sending back data on water, volcanic activity, and radiation on Mars as well as relaying comm for the rovers.
  • The Mars Express spacecraft.  This was built by the Europeans and is based on the earlier successful Rosetta spacecraft and the Russian Mars 96 mission, which had an upper stage launch failure.  The Mars Express has been in orbit since December 2003, performing mineralogical mapping, atmospheric studies, and taking excellent images.
  • The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. This entered Mars orbit in March 2006, aerobraked for the next five months, then began its science mission.  It has mapped possible landing sites, including the one for Curiosity.  It has found some unusual geologic features including chloride deposits.  MRO also captured images of an avalanche.

Looking forward to Curiosity joining the group.

I found this recent panorama from Opportunity, thought it’d be a nice wrap-up for this post.


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