The 2016 launch window for Mars missions is fast approaching along with opposition, and ESA is refining its target window for ExoMars. Mars launch season offers the optimal time to make the trip from Earth to Mars, as missions prepare to break the surly bonds and head towards the Red Planet next spring. NASA’s InSight lander will also make the trip.
ExoMars is the first joint European Space Agency (ESA) Roscosmos mission to the Red Planet. The ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter is under contract to Thales Alenia Space, and the EDM stationary lander dubbed Schiaparelli after the 19th century Italian astronomer is being constructed by Airbus Defense and Space. This would be Russia’s first successful Mars lander mission for over a dozen tries if successful.
As NASA’s Opportunity rover approaches the 12th anniversary of landing on Mars, her greatest science discoveries yet are likely within grasp in the coming months since she has successfully entered Marathon Valley from atop a Martian mountain and is now prospecting downhill for outcrops of water altered clay minerals.
The valley is the gateway to alien terrain holding significant caches of the water altered minerals that formed under environmental conditions conducive to support Martian microbial life forms, if they ever existed. But as anyone who’s ever climbed down a steep hill knows, you have to be extra careful not to slip and slide and break something, no matter how beautiful the view is – Because no one can hear you scream on Mars! See the downward looking valley view above.
5. Newly discovered Asteroid 2015 TB145 a 480m asteroid that will approach to within 1.3 Lunar distances, promises to be the best radar target of the year for Goldstone and Arecibo, expected to produce resolution of 2m per pixel …… but could it be a Jupiter family comet?