Nov 5, 2019

Photo shows NASA's InSight lander on Mars' surface

Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona

Even the most distant robotic explorers on Mars are never totally alone. NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter caught sight of the space agency's InSight lander on the Martian surface in September.

Why it matters: The remarkably clear photo taken by the MRO shows off the lander's circular solar panels on the sides of the spacecraft.

  • "The dark halo surrounding the spacecraft resulted from retrorocket thrusters scouring the surface during landing, while dust devils created the dark streaks that run diagonally across the surface," NASA said in an image description.

The intrigue: InSight's "mole" — designed to burrow below the Martian surface to learn more about the heat being emitted by the planet's interior — backed about halfway out of its hole, according to NASA, and mission managers are now working to figure out why and how to get the mole digging once more.

Go deeper

NASA finds India's crashed Moon lander

A before/after showing the Vikram lander's crash site. Gif: NASA/Goddard/ASU

The final resting place of India's failed lunar lander has been found.

The big picture: The Vikram lander was India's bid to become the fourth nation to land and operate a spacecraft on the surface of the Moon. The mission failed on Sept. 6 when a thruster issue caused the lander to crash not long before its expected touchdown.

Go deeperArrowDec 3, 2019

Where to hunt for life on Mars

Mars as seen by the Curiosity rover. Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

After decades of sending missions to Mars, NASA is now zeroing in on regions of the red planet that they think have the best chance of determining whether the world has hosted — or hosts — life.

The big picture: Scientists are now able to point to parts of Mars that were once likely wet and warm, with geological signatures similar to the rivers, deltas and lakes on Earth — upping the odds that those parts of Mars could have once been friendly to life.

Go deeperArrowNov 19, 2019

Mercury is having a moment

Color-enhanced view of Mercury. Photo: NASA/JHU-APL/Carnegie

Scientists are pushing space agencies around the world to send dedicated missions to the small, relatively unexplored planet Mercury.

Why it matters: With its odd, huge core, magnetic field and unexplained chemistry, the planet is like nowhere else in the solar system.

Go deeperArrowNov 12, 2019