After years of analyses and debate, NASA announced Monday that the agency’s next Mars rover will land on or near an ancient river delta where water once flowed into a 30-mile-wide, 1,600-foot-deep crater to search for signs of ancient microbial life and to continue ongoing studies of the red planet’s history and evolution.
Flight controllers have not heard from NASA’s Opportunity Mars rover since June 10 when an increasingly severe global dust storm blocked out the sun, preventing its solar arrays from recharging the robot’s batteries. But the dust storm is finally abating and engineers are hopeful the long-lived rover will wake up and phone home in the next few weeks.
Fifteen CubeSats owned by NASA, Spire Global, and U.S. research institutions launched aboard a Northrop Grumman Cygnus cargo ship in May have been released into orbit, beginning missions to demonstrate miniaturized, low-cost Earth science instruments and join a commercial network of weather-monitoring nanosatellites.
A commercial cargo carrier owned and operated by SpaceX pulled into port at the International Space Station on Monday, three days after launching from Cape Canaveral with a NASA Earth science instrument, a spare hand for the lab’s Canadian robotic arm, and an AI-powered helper bot for the research lab’s six-person crew.
A commercial SpaceX Dragon cargo capsule packed with a robot assistant for the International Space Station’s crew, pouches of extra strong coffee, and a NASA science instrument designed to track the health of plants on Earth left Cape Canaveral aboard a Falcon 9 rocket Friday on a three-day pursuit of the orbiting research lab.