NASA releases stunningly clear images from its latest Mars probe; insight from the Smithsonian Institute’s John Grant.
After a lengthy review process, which can be found here, the space agency concluded that both missions have “increased our understanding of our solar system, as well as spurred new sets of diverse questions.”
“The Senior Review has validated that these two planetary science missions are likely to continue to bring new discoveries, and produce new questions about our solar system,” said Lori Glaze, director of the planetary science division, in a statement.
“I thank the members of the Senior Review panel for their comprehensive analysis and thank the mission teams as well, who will now continue to provide exciting opportunities to refine our understanding of the dynamic science of Jupiter and Mars.”
Citizen scientist Kevin M. Gill created this image using data from the spacecraft’s JunoCam imager. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)
The Juno mission launched in 2011 and was scheduled to stop functioning in July 2021, but will now continue until September 2025 or the end of its life, whichever comes first. Not only will Juno continue to observe the gas giant, but it will also look at the planet’s rings and its moons, including “close flybys” of Ganymede, Europa, and Io.
Europa, the sixth-largest moon in the Solar System, is home to an ocean that “could be habitable,” researchers have said previously. In August 2019, NASA confirmed it would send a mission to Europa to further explore the celestial body.
At a cost of $828 million, the InSight lander became the space agency’s first probe to reach the Red Planet in six years, following the August 2012 landing of the Curiosity Rover.
This illustration shows NASA’s InSight spacecraft with its instruments deployed on the Martian surface. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)
The InSight lander mission will be extended at least through December 2022. It will continue its work gathering seismic and weather data, as well conducting research using its heat probe.
The InSight (Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport) mission, which is managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, has provided scientists with a wealth of stunning images and discoveries since landing safely on the Red Planet in November 2018 after “seven minutes of terror.”
The lander had originally been scheduled to blast off in March 2016, but NASA suspended its launch preparations when a vacuum leak was found in the craft’s prime science instrument.
In April 2019, the InSight lander recorded the first-ever “Mars quake.”
NASA’s long-term goal is to send a manned mission to Mars in the 2030s.