A NASA spacecraft designed to drill down into Mars’ interior landed on the planet on Monday after a perilous, supersonic plunge through its red skies, setting off jubilation among scientists who had waited in white-knuckle suspense for confirmation to arrive across 100 million miles of space.
Some 78 million miles (126 million kilometers) from Earth, alone on the immense and frigid Red Planet, a robot the size of a small 4x4 wakes up just after sunrise. And just as it has every day for the past six years, it awaits its instructions.
Revealing its human explorations plans, NASA has told the US Congress that the agency is currently focusing on developing technologies and systems that enable a series of human and robotic lunar missions that are extensible to Mars.
Russian scientists from the All-Russian Scientific Research Institute for Physical-Engineering and Radiotechnical Metrology (VNIIFTRI) are developing an optical clock for future spaceflights, including those to Mars, the VNIIFTRI director general, Sergei Donchenko, said.
Scientists are on the brink of a breakthrough in space exploration following the discovery of a lake of water on the Red Planet’s surface coupled with the identification of fluctuations in methane levels consistent with organic processes.