From source to sink: Meteorites from Mars have been known since the 1970’s, but researchers in Oslo, In Lyon, and at IAS have for the first time been able to identify the source crater for shergottites, the largest group of martian meteorites. The source region on Mars was probably impacted about 3 million years ago by a medium-size body, and the meteorites ended their space journey at the Earth’s surface a few thousand years ago.
After a 31 months hibernation phase, the ROSETTA spacecraft has woken up as scheduled on January 20th. After this critical milestone, the spacecraft will progressively get closer to the comet, then it will get into orbit (end of June) so as to map it and to select a landing site for the Philae lander, which will reach the surface of the nucleus in November. IAS has contributed to 3 experiments on board the orbiter and the lander.
Mars is a volcanic world, covered nearly entirely in basaltic rocks. While the planet's geological history remains elusive for lack of in-situ samples or probes of its internal structure, its uniform surface composition was thought to result from an unremarkable magmatic history. However, this is questioned by a recent study lead by ESO and IAS, which has revealed a new rock type on Mars.
Meeting in Paris on 18-19 June, ESA's Science Programme Committee (SPC) gave the go-ahead to continue funding science operations for 10 remarkably productive science missions (including SOHO and Mars Express), all of them working beyond their planned lifetimes and all of them nevertheless continuing to deliver exceptional science.
ESA celebrated the 10 year anniversary in space of Mars Express, launched on June 2, 2003 from the Baikonour space centre. Mars Express, which is still in operation, is the first planetary space mission of ESA. For the first time, the satellite performed coupled analyses of the various Martian envelopes, from the exosphere and the high atmosphere to surface and subsurface, thanks to six instruments, including OMEGA, of which IAS is Principal Investigator. This space mission was very successful; it changed major paradigms in understanding the history of Mars.