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Tag Archives: rover

The European Space Agency’s ExoMars mission is set for launch in 2018.  A rover and a lander are included, to search for evidence of past and present life on Mars. The orbiter, part of the ExoMars 2016 mission, will sample the Martian atmospheric trace gases, such as methane and provide communications. The rover will leave the landing platform and drill into the surface to search for potential fossils, relevant minerals, and organic molecules (with chirality as biomarkers).

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Credit: ESA

In addition to its scientific exploration, the mission will help test in-situ technologies that might pave the way for a future international Mars sample return mission.

Links: ExoMars 2018 mission overview; ESA Mars homepage.

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Have you ever wondered what would it be like to see a sunset on Mars? To help find out, the robotic rover Spirit was deployed in 2005 to park and watch the Sun dip below the distant lip of Gusev crater.

Credit: Mars Exploration Rover Mission, Texas A&M, Cornell, JPL, NASA

Colors in the above image have been slightly exaggerated but would likely be apparent to a human explorer’s eye. Fine martian dust particles suspended in the thin atmosphere lend the sky a reddish color, but the dust also scatters blue light in the forward direction, creating a bluish sky glow near the setting Sun. Because Mars is farther away, the Sun is less bright and only about two thirds the diameter it appears to us from Earth. Images like this help atmospheric scientists understand not only the atmosphere of Mars, but atmospheres across the Solar System, including on our home planet, Earth.

Link: APOD March 2, 2014

On December 14, 2013, China became the third nation to successfully land a spacecraft on the Moon, a so-called ‘soft’ landing. This is also the first such lunar landing in 37 years.

Credit: Wang Jianmin/XinHua, via AP

The Chang’e-3 landing craft carried a solar-powered, robotic rover called the Jade Rabbit (Yutu in Mandarin Chinese), which emerged several hours later to begin exploring Sinus Iridum, or the Bay of Rainbows, a relatively smooth plain formed from solidified lava. According to a Chinese legend, Chang’e is a moon goddess, accompanied by a Jade Rabbit that can brew potions that offer immortality.

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Credit: Chinese National Space Administration, Xinhuanet

A later Chang’e mission, perhaps sometime before 2020, is intended to bring back rocks and other samples from the Moon, and that will need a larger craft capable of sending a vehicle back to Earth. That mission will also need a more powerful launch rocket, which China is also developing.

Links: NY Times article, BBC News report, APOD coverage.

On December 1, 2014, China sent its first robotic lunar rover, named Jade Rabbit (Yutu, part of the Chang’e-3 mission). It would be the first soft landing on the Moon since 1976, by a Soviet probe; no American soft landings have taken place since the last Apollo manned mission in 1972. (The Chang’e missions are discussed in Section 6.2b, p. 133.)

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Credit: China Daily via Reuters

The Jade Rabbit rover is a solar-powered six-wheeled vehicle, similar to NASA’s Mars rovers. It will spend three months exploring and collecting data. A future mission that could take place in several years would be intended to bring back rocks and other samples from the Moon.

Link: NY Times article.