Mars Rover Scooping

There have been four successful robotically operated Mars rovers, all managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory: Sojourner, Opportunity, Spirit and Curiosity. On January 24, 2016, NASA reported that current studies on Mars by Curiosity and Opportunity (the latter now defunct) would be searching for evidence of ancient life, including a biosphere based on autotrophic, chemotrophic or chemolithoautotrophic microorganisms, as well as ancient water, including fluvio-lacustrine environments (plains related to ancient rivers or lakes) that may have been habitable. The search for evidence of habitability, taphonomy (related to fossils), and organic carbon on Mars is now a primary NASA objective. In June 2018, Opportunity went out of contact after going into hibernation mode in a dust storm. NASA declared the end of the Opportunity mission on February 13, 2019, after numerous failures to wake up the rover.

In September 2015, a new study provided an important missing piece to the intriguing puzzle of how our Moon came to be the lovely object that we see today. The largest, shining object in Earth's starlit night sky, our Moon has long been the source of mystery, myth, and poetry--a captivating inspiration for those who stare at the sky in wonder. But Earth's Moon is a very real object--the only body beyond our own planet that we have actually set foot upon, leaving our lingering footprints in its distant, alien dust. Earth's Moon has been with us almost from the very beginning, and even though it is our planet's closest companion in space, it has nonetheless managed to keep some of its ancient secrets very well. In September 2015, astronomers released a new study that shed light on Earth's bewitching companion's ancient and secretive past. Although our Moon now appears to be unchanging, as if it has always been exactly the same as it appears now--going through its beautiful and, yet, familiar phases, and controlling our ocean tides--in the distant past, things were actually very different. "Makemake is in the class of rare Pluto-like objects, so finding a companion is important. The discovery of the moon has given us an opportunity to study Makemake in far greater detail than we ever would have been able to without the companion," Dr. Parker continued to explain.