NASA announced a couple days ago that they will be holding a press conference for a big announcement about Mars. The announcement is later today. Various people are speculating about what the announcement might be, with many suggesting that it probably has something to do with evidence for water on Mars. The press release has minimal information, so we’ll just have to wait and see what this is about.
NASA hopes to run a test launch of the new Orion capsule tomorrow morning, at least as long as conditions are right for a launch. The unmanned test will take the capsule far beyond the low Earth orbit where the ISS and the space shuttles operated. After testing, there are preliminary plans for several missions that could use Orion. Among these are a possible flyby of a captured asteroid and also (hopefully) even the first manned mission to Mars, or at least some testing needed for such a mission.
Reportedly, Orion is basically a more advanced equivalent to the old Apollo capsule used to land on the moon. Hopefully, everything will go well with this test so we can get closer to a return to long-distance spaceflight.
It’s being reported that the MAVEN spacecraft has now arrived at Mars. Apparently the University of Colorado is one of the main contributors to the mission. Unlike the Mars rovers that have been famously operating for the past decade or so, this spacecraft will orbit the planet and measure the properties of its atmosphere.
It was reported a few days ago that the NASA Mars Rover Curiosity has finally arrived at one of its main destinations, the bottom of a mountain. Curiosity has been exploring Mars since 2012. News reports say that the main science goal at this site is to study Martian geology by looking at different layers of rock. The Mars rover program of the last 10 years has been incredibly successful and hopefully Curiosity will continue to generate science data for years to come.