Monday, October 17, 2011

Mission(s) to Mars

Almost two years ago I wrote about the Mars rover Spirit and how it, after more than 5 years on Mars, got stuck in the soil and was unable to move any further. Eventually NASA gave up trying to contact the rover and today it is considered lost.
Spirit was on a 90 (Martian) day mission to explore our neighbouring planet Mars with its twin rover Opportunity. Unlike Spirit, Opportunity is still going strong.

A week or so ago I saw a link (on Universe Today) to a video made from 3 years of Opportunity footage as it made its 20 km trek across the Meridiani Planum.
I've embedded the video below and you really should watch it, it's only about 3 minutes long and it's really cool. This is what it would look like if you drove (slowly) across the Martian surface.

Other Mars missions
In related news two other missions to Mars are coming along nicely.

First there's the Russian mission Phobos-Grunt which is going to attempt to land on the Martian moon Phobos and later return with a soil sample of it to Earth. How awesome is that!
At the moment they have launch planned for November this year.

And then there's the NASA Curiosity mission to send another rover to Mars, also scheduled for launch November/December this year.
You can seen the rocket being assembled here and the latest photos of the assembly here in the official photo album (thanks to the Planetary Society).
There's also a live video feed from the assembly room.