With the announcement of NASA’s Mars 2020 Rover name today we are standing firmly on the threshold of a great era of Mars Science which is set to swing into full gear this year.

NASA’s Perseverance Rover will launch in the summer, heading for our distant neighbour, and is expected to touch down on Mars early in 2021. In the meantime, we continue to get great images, great science and extraordinary data from the active Mars missions including NASA’s Insight probe, NASA’s Curiosity Rover (now in it’s 8th year on Mars) and others.

What does Perseverance bring to the table, you might ask?

Well, the main mission objective is to prepare the way for future explorer missions to Mars. The rover will study and collect samples, examine chemical elements, geological features, sub-surface structures and make-up and more. Details of the mission can be found here: NASA Announces Mars 2020 Rover Payload to Explore the Red Planet as Never Before.

While everyone is excited to see Perseverance off on its new adventure, Curiosity is still wowing scientists and Mars enthusiasts alike with the incredible images the intrepid rover is snapping of landscape details which are jaw-droppingly fascinating. A recent panorama shot has been released by NASA and is, to date, Curiosity’s highest resolution image. The picture contains incredible details of the surrounding area and will be studied carefully to unearth the countless clues it serves up for studying Mars’ unique geology.

Follow the link: https://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/figures/PIA23623_fig1.jpg  to see the image in its full resolution.

The details are remarkable, including catching a glimpse of Curiosity’s dusty nameplate (far left), The shadow of her mastcam, old tracks indicating paths taken, the rim of the Gale Crater, etc. An accompanying video narrates some of the fascinating discoveries in the image. Go to: https://www.nasa.gov/feature/jpl/nasas-curiosity-mars-rover-snaps-its-highest-resolution-panorama-yet to watch the video.

And while the rovers trundle along or finish being prepped for launch, we revisit the Insight mission for a quick update on what’s been going on there.

Attempts to get the mole to dig into the surface of Mars have yet to be successful. The team are set to attempt a back-cap push which will see them employing the small scoop bucket to apply a steady pressure on the back cap of the mole in order to “push” it into the hole it has already excavated. We await news on this exercise in the coming months.

Mars has many secrets to still give up. The science is slow because it is happening remotely from a distance, but that doesn’t diminish our excitement at any, and every, small advance which is made in the pursuit of knowledge about the distant planet that may one day be home to extra-planetary explorers from Earth. As strange as Mars is to us, with every passing day we know more and more about it, leading the way to understanding and preparing future crewed missions to the Red Planet.