And now for a quick rundown of upcoming and ongoing missions. Yes, Beth is making me talk about something that hasn’t launched as well as things that have. So first up, ExoMars is the European Space Agency’s upcoming Mars rover, named Rosalind Franklin, that is set to launch in 2022. Last week, the rover’s Earth-bound twin did some simulated terrain tests, including a side slope, a small hill, and some boulder-covered terrain. The rover also took a panoramic image from the top of a simulated hill, and we’ll have a link to that image and others from the tests on DailySpace.org.
Next up, InSight is once again proving to be the little lander that could. Despite all its challenges, the team behind this lander continues to find ingenious and unexpected ways to try and fix problems.
Mars has a lot of dust, and that dust tends to collect on things like solar panels. Solar panels, of course, are necessary to power things like tiny rovers and big landers, so when they get covered, battery levels don’t replenish as well as they should and power levels fall. We saw with Opportunity that this can be a mission-ending problem, so the InSight team has been working to find a solution. And what they did greatly amuses us — they used that amazing little shovel to pour Martian dirt on the solar panels to remove some of the dust. And it worked, with the lander gaining 30 watt-hours of energy per Martian day. This boost in the power reserves should help InSight keep its instruments on for a few extra days before the team shuts down instruments to reserve energy during Mars’ aphelion, or farthest point from the Sun.
Now, just in case you missed our watch party last week, NASA announced the selection of their Discovery missions for the year, and in a shocking twist, of the four possible finalist missions, they chose both of the missions to Venus. The first is DAVINCI+, which will study the composition of Venus’ atmosphere. The second is VERITAS, and that mission will map the surface of Venus and study the geologic history of the planet. We’re excited to say that the Planetary Science Institute has scientists involved in both missions, and we hope to have them on the show this week to discuss their missions and share their excitement.
Last but definitely not least, NASA’s Juno spacecraft was set to get a close look at Jupiter’s moon Ganymede this week. This will be the first fly-by of the giant moon in more than twenty years. The flyby was scheduled for Monday, June 7, at 1:30 pm Eastern, and it would bring Juno within about 1000 kilometers of Ganymede. Beth is extremely excited about the results of this flyby since this huge moon is actually bigger than Mercury and has its own magnetosphere. There may even be a subsurface ocean involved.
The craft will be using an ultraviolet spectrograph, an infrared mapper, and a microwave radiometer to gather data during the approach. Additionally, the JunoCam imager will take pictures, and we will share those images and results with you as soon as they are released, so make sure you stay tuned over the coming weeks.