Highlights from the 2014 LA Auto Show

Mars

Artist's impression of Curiosity (Image: NASA)

Break out the party hats – NASA’s Curiosity rover is celebrating its second anniversary on Mars. On August 5, 2012 at 10:31 pm PDT (August 6, 05:31 GMT), the unmanned spacecraft touched down at Bradbury Landing in Gale Crater on the start of a multi-year mission to seek out areas where life could or may once have existed, and is now preparing to carry on for a third year.  Read More

Subsystems on the MOXIE instrument (Image: NASA)

Oxygen is such an abundant resource on Earth that we rarely think about it unless we get locked in a cupboard. However, for space engineers, the question of how to get enough of the vital gas is constant, frustrating problem. To help future explorers of the Red Planet get enough oxygen for life support and powering spacecraft, NASA has included MIT’s MOXIE experiment on the Mars 2020 mission to study how to make oxygen out of the Martian atmosphere.  Read More

An image displaying Opportunity's path from its deployment zone in Eagle Crater, to its cu...

Having traveled a grand total of 25 miles (40 km) over the course of its historic mission of exploration, NASA's Opportunity Mars rover has taken the record for the greatest distance traveled on another planetary body. The rover, only originally designed to travel around 1 km, massively exceeded its creators' most optimistic expectations, and has now covered almost the distance of a full marathon on its mission to unlock the secrets of the Red Planet.  Read More

The seven instruments selected for Mars 2020 (Image: NASA)

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover has been trundling around the Red Planet for almost two years now, so the space agency is looking for a trade in. At a press conference in Washington DC, it announced the seven instruments selected to fly on the Mars 2020 rover mission that is scheduled to launch in July or August 2020 with a landing set for February 2021 at a yet to be determined site. The instruments were selected out of 58 proposals from US and international scientists and engineers, and represent a development cost of US$130 million.  Read More

Comet C/2013 A1 will pass Mars ten times closer than any observed comet has passed the Ear...

In October, Mars will encounter comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring, which will come closer to the Red Planet than any recorded comet has passed to Earth. This spectacular event isn't just an astronomical curiosity, it’s also a potential hazard to NASA’s armada of orbiting explorers, so the space agency is taking steps to protect them from damage by the cosmic visitor.  Read More

Artist concept of commercial Mars satellites providing communications (Image: ASA/JPL)

You can land the most advanced spacecraft in history on the Mars, but if you can’t keep in touch with it, it might as well be so much scrap. To prevent that from happening, NASA has issued a Request for Information (RFI) to investigate the feasibility of using private satellites to provide communications into the 2020s between Earth and the fleet of exploration probes operating on and around Mars.  Read More

ESA's prototype dropship attached to a mock lander (Photo: Airbus Defence & Space)

The ESA has tested a novel system that may allow the agency to safely land rovers on Mars using a quadcopter-like dropship. A fully automated, proof of concept Skycrane prototype was created over the course of eight months under the ESA's StarTiger program, with the system's hardware largely derived from commercially available quadcopter components.  Read More

The LDSD test vehicle being fished from the Pacific Ocean by the Kahana recovery vessel (P...

NASA has successfully carried out the first of three airborne tests for its Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD), a saucer shaped test vehicle which will one day be used to slow down scientific payloads entering the atmosphere of Mars. This new system of atmospheric deceleration will allow the agency to contemplate heavier, more ambitious endeavors, building towards a manned mission to the red planet.  Read More

Student-led project Time Capsule To Mars is aiming to land digital time capsules on the su...

A US$25 million crowdfunded, student-led mission plans to send three CubeSat microsatellites all the way to Mars, landing time capsules on the surface of the Red Planet, that will contain the digital messages from tens of millions of people from all countries around the world. You can upload a picture of your own, up to 10 MB in size, by contributing just 99 cents.  Read More

Large, fresh crater surrounded by smaller craters (Image: NASA)

There are millions of impact craters all over the Solar System, but direct evidence of the massive collisions that form them is very hard to come by – and therefore very valuable. While carrying out its routine monitoring of the weather on the Red Planet, the Mars Color Imager (MARCI) on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) has inadvertently snapped before and after images of the largest fresh meteor impact crater found anywhere in the Solar System.  Read More

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