Mars Exploration 1: Unmanned Missions (Probes; Rovers; etc.)

rynner2

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Mars methane mission lifts off
By Jonathan Amos BBC Science Correspondent, Darmstadt
[Lift-off video]

Europe and Russia have launched a joint mission to the Red Planet.
The satellite, called the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO), lifted off from Baikonur in Kazakhstan at 09:31 GMT.
The probe will investigate whether the methane in the world's atmosphere is coming from a geological source or is being produced by microbes.

If all goes well, the two space powers expect to follow up this venture with a rover, to be assembled in the UK, which will drill into the surface.
That could launch in 2018, or, as seems increasingly likely, in 2020.

It will take the carrier rocket more than 10 hours to put the satellite on the right trajectory to go to Mars.
This involves a series of engine burns by the Proton's Breeze upper-stage to build up the velocity needed to break free of Earth's gravity.
These will fling the TGO away from Earth with a relative velocity of 33,000km/h.

The flight sequence is sure to strain the nerves of space agency officials.
For Russia especially, the Red Planet represents a destination of wretched fortune.
It has previously launched 19 missions to the fourth planet from the Sun, and most of those have been outright failures.
Many could not get off the pad cleanly; others simply stalled above the Earth and fell back down; a few crashed and burned at Mars or sailed straight past.

Assuming everything works out this time, controllers at the European Space Agency's operations centre in Darmstadt, Germany, can expect a signal from the TGO after it has been released on its way by the Breeze boost stage.
This should come through at 21:28 GMT. It is then a seven-month cruise to Mars.

Three days out from arrival, on 16 October, the satellite will eject a small landing module known as Schiaparelli.
Once on the surface, on 19 October, its aim is to operate a few science instruments, but engineers are primarily interested to see how the module performs during the entry, descent and touchdown.
In particular, Schiaparelli will showcase a suite of technologies - radar, computers and their algorithms - that will be needed to put a later, British-built rover safely on the planet.

This second step in the joint European-Russian ExoMars project is supposed to leave Earth in 2018, although this is now looking increasingly doubtful because of funding and scheduling issues. Many connected with ExoMars are now talking about 2020 as being a more realistic launch date.

etc...

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-35799792
 

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Beagle 2: most detailed images yet of lost Mars lander revealed
New pictures are most detailed images of Mars ever achieved from an orbiting spacecraft and seem to add weight to theory on Beagle 2’s final resting place
Nicola Davis
Tuesday 26 April 2016 06.00 BST

Astronomers have revealed the most detailed images yet of what is thought to be the landing site of the ill-fated Mars lander, Beagle 2, offering further evidence that the British spacecraft failed to phone-home because of problems following touchdown.

Showing a bright blip in dusty terrain, the new picture is four times the resolution of previous images. The image adds weight to the theory that the diminutive spacecraft - just under a metre in diameter - landed as planned on Mars in 2003, but failed to fully unfurl its solar panels. “Given the size of Beagle 2, even with super-resolution images you are not likely to see more than a series of blobs because it is so small,” said Mark Sims, of the University of Leicester and former mission manager for Beagle 2. “What it does show is that it is on the surface and it is at least partially deployed.”

Launched on board the European Space Agency’s Mars Express Orbiter, the Beagle 2 spacecraft was due to touchdown on Mars on Christmas Day in 2003. But after leaving the mother craft it failed to make contact with Earth, leading to speculation that the lander had crashed.

But a series of clues have since indicated that the hitch likely occurred after it landed correctly on the planet’s surface. Last year Sims and colleagues including John Bridges, also at Leicester University, revealed an image from Nasa’s High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) on board the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, that showed a trio of specks on the planet’s surface, thought to be Beagle 2, its parachute and rear cover.

Now researchers at University College, London, have improved the resolution of the HiRISE images, to produce the most detailed pictures of Mars ever achieved from an orbiting spacecraft. The technique, known as Super-Resolution Restoration (SRR), involved stacking and matching up to eight HiRISE images of the same area - the first results of which were revealed by the team in February. “Each of the images are taken from a slightly different angle,” said Muller.

While each HiRISE image has a resolution of around 25cm, the technique allowed the team to produce images of the Martian landscape with a resolution of just 5cm, allowing much finer detail to be observed than ever before. In the case of the Beagle-2 landing site, five images were compiled resulting in a four-fold improvement in resolution. But it’s a lengthy process. “It takes three days on our fastest computers to do a small scene of 2,000 by 1,000 pixels,” said Jan-Peter Muller, from University College, London who led the work. “We can’t yet do an entire scene.”

The results, they say, confirm the idea that Beagle 2 did indeed make it to the red planet. “Intriguingly it isn’t a single white blob which is how it was represented last time around,” said Muller,. “We can now actually see a y-shape on the left hand side and some distortions as well on the right.”

But understanding what happened to Beagle 2, says Sims, isn’t just about unpicking the past - it could also help with future missions. “It’s important to tease the mystery apart because you want to know why it didn’t fully deploy,” he said. “You need to have some idea of how far you got, what might have been the good parts of your design, what might have been the parts which you would improve at a later date.”

While the new shot of the Beagle 2 site appears, to the untrained eye, to show little more than a y-shaped blob, Muller believes the technique has the potential to yield even greater detail. “We have provided the highest ever resolution pictures of the surface and we are going to keep going - the more pictures we get the better the resolution,” he said. “There is no theoretical limit at this point in time to what we can achieve.”

etc...

https://www.theguardian.com/science...ailed-images-yet-of-lost-mars-lander-revealed
 

rynner2

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Beagle 2 'was so close to Mars success'

Beagle 2, the failed British mission to Mars in 2003, came "excruciatingly close" to succeeding, a study shows.

A new analysis of pictures of the Beagle 2 spacecraft shows that it did not crash-land on the Martian surface.
Instead, it indicates that the landing went to plan and at least three of its four solar panels opened successfully.
The analysis also suggests that the probe may even have worked for several months, but was unable to send its data back to Earth.

Prof Mark Sims of Leicester University, who commissioned the study, told BBC News that there is an extremely small possibility that Beagle 2 might still be working on the Martian surface.

"It may have worked for hundreds of days depending on how much dust was deposited on the solar panels and whether any dust devils were cleaning the panels - as happened with Nasa's Mars Exploration Rovers," he said.
"One possibility is that it could still be working today - but it is extremely unlikely and I doubt that it is."

Dr Manish Patel, of the Open University, was among the hundreds of UK scientists who worked on the Beagle 2 mission. He agrees that the new evidence suggests that Beagle 2 took lots of scientific data but was unable to send it back.

"If Beagle 2 went into surface operations mode, it could have continued for some time performing the initial pre-programmed operations, happily taking data and waiting for a response from the orbiters. It turned out to be a very lonely time for the lander at the surface," he said.

Those views are backed by Prof Jan-Peter Muller of the Mullard Space Science Laboratory, which is part of University College London - who has no ties with the Beagle-2 mission.

"Given that (Nasa's) exploration rover Opportunity is going strong since January 2004 when it was due to last only until March 2004 and that Mars Express is going strong 13 years after orbit insertion when it was due to last only 3 years, the possibility that Beagle 2 could still be collecting data after 13 years is remotely possible."

The British built Beagle 2 Spacecraft was due to land on the Martian surface on Christmas Day in 2003.
The mission was charismatically led by the late Prof Colin Pillinger. The spacecraft was capable of collecting soil samples and analysing them for signs of organic molecules associated with life in a miniaturised on-board laboratory.

Disappointingly, no signal was received on Christmas Day. The search for a response from Beagle 2 continued for several months but the spacecraft was never heard from again.



In 2014, Nasa's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) found Beagle 2 on the Martian surface. The spacecraft took pictures which seemed to indicate that the spacecraft landed as planned and some of its solar panels had opened.

In the new detailed analysis, Nick Higgett and his team at De Montfort University not only confirmed this but also indicated that Beagle 2 had deployed at least three of its solar panels - with the fourth and final panel possibly beginning to open.
The technique is based on simulating possible configurations of the lander on the surface and comparing the amount of sunlight that reflects off the simulated lander with real pictures taken from Nasa's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
The researchers then identified which landing configuration of one, two, three or four solar panels opened was the best fit.
"Hopefully these results help to solve a long held mystery and will benefit any future missions to Mars," said Mr Higgett.

We got so close," says Prof Sims, adding: "We succeeded in so many elements. It is a great pity the communications didn't work and we didn't get the science back."
Prof Sims, who worked on Beagle 2, says that he and others who worked on the mission take satisfaction from the fact that the system did seem to work so well.
"It shows that the Beagle 2 team did an amazing job. It shows that the design was sound. It got there. It landed on Mars at the first attempt."

In every failure there is a success hidden somewhere that teaches us and motivates us. This is a perfect example
Dr Manish Patel, Open University
The analysis suggests that Beagle 2 fell at the very final hurdle. It was unable to send back data or receive instructions from Earth.
This may have been because the fourth solar panel may have partially opened and shielded the radio antenna.

Alternatively, the receiver might have malfunctioned. Another possibility is that internal electrical systems were damaged by a heavy landing.

After studying the analysis, Dr Patel says he feels "incredibly frustrated" but also "incredibly proud" that the Beagle 2 team came so close.
"Previously, I assumed it was in pieces. But now I feel very proud to know that it's there, intact, and was (likely) ready to do some great science," he explained.
"This kind of tantalising result on a long held mystery is the kind of thing that keeps us going, that really inspires me to persist in the challenge of exploring Mars.

"I like to think that in every failure there is a success hidden somewhere that teaches us and motivates us. This is a perfect example."

The new results will be discussed by Mark Sims and Geraint Morgan at the Colin Pillinger Memorial Talk at Bristol University next Wednesday 16 November
 

Mythopoeika

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It's called NASA and crop yield. Not to difficult to understand. One uses imagination and human ingenuity to get us to space. We have the time and resources to eventually colonize it. The other is how our crop yield has multiplied while the native pop of usa has not due to low birthrate. That solves your trying to control or fear of people out breeding and eating you. simples
It's not just food supply that's an issue. New land isn't being made (OK, Holland and Dubai are exceptions) and other resources are in limited supply.
 

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Schwadevivre

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The question for me is how long before we find the first Martian fossil
A new study now reveals the extent of underground water on ancient Mars that was previously only predicted by models.

"Early Mars was a watery world, but as the planet's climate changed this water retreated below the surface to form pools and 'groundwater'," says lead author Francesco Salese of Utrecht University, the Netherlands.

"We traced this water in our study, as its scale and role is a matter of debate, and we found the first geological evidence of a planet-wide groundwater system on Mars."

First evidence of planet-wide groundwater system on Mars via PhysOrg
 

ramonmercado

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A copter on Mars!

A helicopter that is set to fly on Mars in 2021 has completed its first test flight, American space agency Nasa has revealed.

Exploration on other planets has long been restricted to rovers on the ground, but engineers are making progress in their ambitious plans to launch a drone-like device into the skies above the Red Planet for the first time, which they hope will reveal a new perspective on the Martian surface.

Remotely controlling a helicopter from hundreds of millions of miles away, on top of Mars’s thin atmosphere and freezing temperatures as low as minus 90C (minus 130F) at night, make flying such a device an incredibly difficult technical feat.

https://www.irishexaminer.com/break...ying-a-helicopter-on-mars-in-2021-914118.html
 

INT21

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A copter on Mars!

A helicopter that is set to fly on Mars in 2021 has completed its first test flight, American space agency Nasa has revealed.

Exploration on other planets has long been restricted to rovers on the ground, but engineers are making progress in their ambitious plans to launch a drone-like device into the skies above the Red Planet for the first time, which they hope will reveal a new perspective on the Martian surface.

Remotely controlling a helicopter from hundreds of millions of miles away, on top of Mars’s thin atmosphere and freezing temperatures as low as minus 90C (minus 130F) at night, make flying such a device an incredibly difficult technical feat.

https://www.irishexaminer.com/break...ying-a-helicopter-on-mars-in-2021-914118.html
They will probably control it from an orbiter. just allowing for the delay.
 

ramonmercado

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Marsquake!

The American space agency's InSight lander appears to have detected its first seismic event on Mars.

The faint rumble was picked up by the probe's sensors on 6 April - the 128th Martian day, or sol, of the mission. It is the first seismic signal detected on the surface of a planetary body other than the Earth and its Moon. Scientists say the source for this "Marsquake" could either be movement in a crack inside the planet or the shaking from a meteorite impact.

Nasa's InSight probe touched down on the Red Planet in November last year. It aims to identify multiple quakes, to help build a clearer picture of Mars' interior structure.

https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-48031975
 

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Getting the Mars samples back isn't easy.

How can we bring a sample of Mars safely back to Earth?

With scientists worldwide curious about the Red Planet's potential for life, NASA and the European Space Agency are working on a future "sample-return" mission to safely study Mars materials. One possible location for sample hunting could be a Martian spot called Jezero Crater, the site of an ancient lake — and possibly, also a location for ancient microbes.

While rovers and landers can study Mars when they land there, the challenge is that there is only so much space available on these machines for instruments. On Earth, entire laboratories could study Red Planet regolith (soil) and rocks. But getting the samples back to our planet will be a considerable engineering challenge.

https://www.space.com/how-to-return...witter&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=dlvr.it
 

ramonmercado

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From the Gulf, crossing the gulf of space.

The first Arab space mission to Mars is preparing to lift off within weeks. Fuelling is due to begin next week.

It will take seven months to travel the 493 million km (308 million miles) to reach Mars and begin its orbit, sending back ground-breaking new data about its climate and atmosphere. The probe will remain orbiting Mars for an entire Martian year, 687 days, to gather sufficient data. A single orbit around Mars will take the probe 55 hours.

In a briefing on Monday, the programme's science lead Sarah Al-Amiri said the project should be a major incentive for young Arab scientists to embark on a career in space engineering.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-52973849
 

ramonmercado

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From the Gulf, crossing the gulf of space.

The first Arab space mission to Mars is preparing to lift off within weeks. Fuelling is due to begin next week.

It will take seven months to travel the 493 million km (308 million miles) to reach Mars and begin its orbit, sending back ground-breaking new data about its climate and atmosphere. The probe will remain orbiting Mars for an entire Martian year, 687 days, to gather sufficient data. A single orbit around Mars will take the probe 55 hours.

In a briefing on Monday, the programme's science lead Sarah Al-Amiri said the project should be a major incentive for young Arab scientists to embark on a career in space engineering.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-52973849

More on this Mission to Mars.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE), a small Persian Gulf nation, is on the cusp of a big breakthrough: joining the United States, the Soviet Union, Europe, and India in the elite club of nations that have successfully sent spacecraft to Mars. On 15 July, the Emirates Mars Mission (EMM)—also known as the Hope satellite—is set to launch on a Japanese rocket, arriving at the Red Planet in February 2021.

Planners hope the mission will boost UAE industry and science capacity while also delivering sorely needed data on the martian atmosphere. “One of the primary objectives of the mission from the start was to do science that is relevant to the international community,” says Sarah Amiri, Hope’s science lead.

Most of the six spacecraft now at Mars are in polar orbits that only offer views of the surface at fixed times of day. But Hope will be inserted into an inclined orbit that provides a view of any given point at a different time on each orbit. A camera and infrared spectrometer will collect data about dust, moisture, and ozone in the lower atmosphere, while an ultraviolet spectrometer will measure carbon monoxide, hydrogen, and oxygen in the upper atmosphere.

https://www.sciencemag.org/news/202...ted-arab-emirates-poised-join-elite-mars-club
 

ramonmercado

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China heads to the red Planet.

China has moved a rocket into position to launch a rover to Mars, in one of three forthcoming missions to the red planet, one from the US and another by the United Arab Emirates.

The Long March-5 carrier rocket is China’s heaviest-lift launch vehicle and has been used experimentally three times, but never with a payload. Dubbed Tianwen-1, China’s first mission to Mars aims to land a rover to gather scientific data. The rocket is due to blast off from the Wenchang Space Launch Centre in the southern island province of Hainan in late July or early August, according to state media reports on Friday that quoted the China National Space Administration. The mission is one of the most ambitious yet for China’s space programme, which has advanced rapidly since launching its first crewed mission in 2003.

https://www.irishexaminer.com/world/arid-40017326.html
 

ramonmercado

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A well-equipped rover. It's next mission will be to seek out intelligent life in Cromer.

NASA’s next rover is a connoisseur of Martian rocks.

The main job of the Perseverance rover, set to launch between July 20 and August 11, is to pick out rocks that might preserve signs of past life and store the samples for a future mission back to Earth.

“We’re giving a gift to the future,” says planetary scientist Adrian Brown, who works at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Most of the rover’s seven sets of scientific instruments work in service of that goal, including zoomable cameras to pick out the best rocks from afar and lasers and spectrometers to identify a rock’s makeup. After the rover lands in February 2021, it’s capable of collecting and storing 20 samples within the first Martian year (about two Earth years). The NASA team plans to collect at least 30 samples over the whole mission, says planetary scientist Katie Stack Morgan of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

Fortunately, Perseverance is headed to a spot that should be full of collection-worthy rocks. The landing site in Jezero crater, just north of the Martian equator, contains an ancient river delta that looks like it once carried water and silt into a long-lived lake.

https://www.sciencenews.org/article/nasa-perseverance-rover-mars-instruments-life
 

ramonmercado

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This article focuses on the helicopter aspect of the Perseverance mission.

07.27.2020 08:00 AM
A Helicopter Ride Over Mars? NASA's About to Give It a Shot
“I see it as kind of a Wright brothers moment on another planet,” says the project's chief engineer at JPL.

LATER THIS WEEK, NASA plans to launch its fourth Mars rover, Perseverance, on a six-month journey to the Red Planet. Perseverance will boot up a mission to collect samples of Martian dirt that might have traces of ancient life, so that they can be returned to Earth by another mission later this decade. It will also carry a payload unlike anything that’s ever been boosted into space: a small autonomous helicopter called Ingenuity. Sometime next spring, probably in April, Ingenuity will spin up its rotor blades and become the first spacecraft to go airborne on Mars.

“I see it as kind of a Wright brothers moment on another planet,” says Bob Balaram, the chief engineer for the Mars helicopter project at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “It’s a high-risk, high-reward mission that could enable us to go to lots of places we haven’t been able to go before.”

https://www.wired.com/story/a-helicopter-ride-over-mars-nasas-about-to-give-it-a-shot/
 

Kondoru

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Dont tell me.

It will find all sorts of interesting rocks only to get them home...

...and find they are not that thrilling after all.

This is my geologising experience
 

Bigphoot2

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Perseverance is on its way to Mars

Nasa Mars rover: Perseverance robot launches to detect life on Red Planet
By Jonathan AmosBBC Science Correspondent
  • 2 hours ago
The US space agency's Perseverance robot has left Earth on a mission to try to detect life on Mars.
The one-tonne, six-wheeled rover was launched out of Florida by an Atlas rocket on a path to intercept the Red Planet in February next year.
When it lands, the Nasa robot will also gather rock and soil samples to be sent home later this decade.
Perseverance is the third mission despatched to Mars inside 11 days, after launches by the UAE and China.
Lift-off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station occurred at 07:50 local time (12:50 BST; 11:50 GMT).
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-53584405
 

kamalktk

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A well-equipped rover. It's next mission will be to seek out intelligent life in Cromer.

NASA’s next rover is a connoisseur of Martian rocks.

The main job of the Perseverance rover, set to launch between July 20 and August 11, is to pick out rocks that might preserve signs of past life and store the samples for a future mission back to Earth.

“We’re giving a gift to the future,” says planetary scientist Adrian Brown, who works at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Most of the rover’s seven sets of scientific instruments work in service of that goal, including zoomable cameras to pick out the best rocks from afar and lasers and spectrometers to identify a rock’s makeup. After the rover lands in February 2021, it’s capable of collecting and storing 20 samples within the first Martian year (about two Earth years). The NASA team plans to collect at least 30 samples over the whole mission, says planetary scientist Katie Stack Morgan of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

Fortunately, Perseverance is headed to a spot that should be full of collection-worthy rocks. The landing site in Jezero crater, just north of the Martian equator, contains an ancient river delta that looks like it once carried water and silt into a long-lived lake.

https://www.sciencenews.org/article/nasa-perseverance-rover-mars-instruments-life
The whole plan to get the rocks back to Earth is amazing. Perseverance is going to get the rocks, then leave them in a cache on the surface. Then another rover is being launched to pick up the cache left by Perseverance. That second rover will then bring the cache back and load the cache onto a rocket at it's landing site. That rocket will then launch into Mars orbit. Then the small Mars to Mars orbit rocket will launch the canister in space to be captured by yet another rocket. That fourth rocket will come back to Earth, where it will release the canister to land.

So two rovers and four rockets.

https://www.space.com/mars-rover-perseverance-sample-return-missions.html
 

Mythopoeika

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The whole plan to get the rocks back to Earth is amazing. Perseverance is going to get the rocks, then leave them in a cache on the surface. Then another rover is being launched to pick up the cache left by Perseverance. That second rover will then bring the cache back and load the cache onto a rocket at it's landing site. That rocket will then launch into Mars orbit. Then the small Mars to Mars orbit rocket will launch the canister in space to be captured by yet another rocket. That fourth rocket will come back to Earth, where it will release the canister to land.

So two rovers and four rockets.

https://www.space.com/mars-rover-perseverance-sample-return-missions.html
So many links in the chain. Lots that can go wrong.
Circumstances and engineering have to be spot-on.
 

charliebrown

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On Thursday Mars rover Perserverance will try to land on Mars.

If this fails, oh well, 3 billion dollars down the drain !
 

MercuryCrest

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I can't freakin' wait for Perseverance to land!
 

ChasFink

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On Thursday Mars rover Perserverance will try to land on Mars.

If this fails, oh well, 3 billion dollars down the drain !
In any event, my name, which is on board, will be on Mars!
 

blessmycottonsocks

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I can't freakin' wait for Perseverance to land!
Will be following the NASA streaming today.

I see though that the landing site of Jezero crater is, like the location of many Mars probes, not that far north or south of the equator.

mars.JPG


Can't help wondering if all these spacecraft are landing in the Martian equivalent of the Gobi desert.
Would they have a better chance of detecting life at locations such as the lake of water just below the surface of the southern polar region, or the bottom of Hellas Planitia or Valles Marineris, where the higher air pressure can just about support liquid water?
 

Kondoru

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What time is it? Time zones confuse me
 
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