Space travel is a constant exercise in forward planning, with mission control thinking years and sometimes decades in advance. A case in point is NASA's InSight Mars lander, which is scheduled to touchdown on the Red Planet on September 26, 2016. This may be more than a year away, but the space agency is already moving its Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) into a new orbit to provide communications support during the landing.
Mar One has outlined the next phase of the candidate selection process for its project to send colonists on a one-way mission to Mars. The non-profit organization will subject candidates to a series of challenges and interviews that will trim the pool from 100 to 24.
If a NASA experimental program pans out, the first aircraft on Mars
could be a flying wing. Under development at NASA Armstrong, the
Prandtl–m is a flying wing glider designed to fly piggyback with a
future Mars rover mission to provide low-altitude reconnaissance. It's scheduled to begin test flights later this year.
NASA's longest serving Martian orbiter, the Mars Odyssey spacecraft, has just achieved a historic milestone by completing its 60,000th orbit of the Red Planet since arriving on October 24, 2001.
Small, relatively inexpensive CubeSats have been enjoying a bit of success of late, but only in low-Earth orbit. However, that will soon expand with NASA announcing that its InSight Mars lander will be accompanied in 2016 by a pair of Mars Cube One (MarCO) CubeSats to provide better communications.
NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) has detected deposits of impact glass on the Red Planet that may provide a fresh avenue for investigating the question of whether life ever existed there. The hope is that glass forged in the intense conditions created by an asteroid impact may have preserved microscopic signs of life, as it has here on Earth.
NASA has put a new supersonic parachute design through its paces in the second test of its flying saucer-like Low Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD). The technology is being developed for future exploration of Mars, where it would allow NASA and its partners to land heavier payloads on the surface.
NASA has begun a
comprehensive series of tests for its Mars Interior Exploration using
Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) lander.
Once on the Red Planet, the lander will operate as a stationary
science platform, attempting to answer a plethora of questions
regarding the interior structure of Mars, and hopefully granting us
some of the information needed to make a manned mission to the Red Planet in the 2030s a reality.
NASA's Mars Curiosity
rover has been forced to alter its route after being faced with
dangerous terrain. The current objective of the robotic explorer is
to investigate a geological boundary between two distinct forms of
bedrock as a part of its mission to explore the heights of Mount
Sharp, and ultimately unlock the secrets of the Red Planet's ancient
ESA's Mars Express orbiter has captured images that may indicate the presence of supervolcanoes on the surface of Mars. If the findings are later confirmed, the existence of these leviathan volcanoes may greatly inform current theories on climate formation, as eruptions from the supervolcanoes could have dramatically altered the Martian global environment.