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.
NASA has issued a challenge to designers aimed at stimulating innovation in 3D printing solutions that may one day be the key to establishing a permanent presence on Mars.
Establishing and maintaining a permanent human presence on Mars promises
to be one of the most technologically challenging ventures ever
undertaken by our species. A key aspect of the endeavor is to create an
environment in which human beings can survive and flourish – this
requires a ready supply of oxygen. NASA is working with Indiana-based
company Techshot Inc. in order to develop a solution with the potential
to produce an abundant source of oxygen with minimal assistance from
NASA has launched a
public challenge with the aim of innovating technologies vital for
the establishment of a colony on Mars. The agency is focused
on a mission to the Red Planet, and has already taken
the first vital steps. However, whilst simply reaching Mars with a
cargo of healthy astronauts would be a monumental triumph,
maintaining a permanent presence on so inhospitable a planet could
prove to be a much greater technological challenge.
Space may be big, but in our neck of the woods it's getting crowded. There are thousands of active and inactive satellites in orbit around Earth, and while Mars may not exactly be Piccadilly Circus, it now has five active satellites circling it. To prevent any unfortunate collisions around the Red Planet, NASA is working on a new traffic management system.