Phoenix Mars Lander

Phoenix was a robotic spacecraft on a space exploration mission on Mars under the Mars Scout Program. The Phoenix lander landed on Mars on May 25, 2008. Mission scientists used instruments aboard the lander to search for environments suitable for microbial life on Mars, and to research the history of water there.

Current status: The lander completed its mission in August 2008, and made a last brief communication with Earth on November 2 as available solar power dropped with the Martian winter. The mission was declared concluded on November 10, 2008, after engineers were unable to re-contact the craft.

Imperial’s involvement: Professor Tom Pike was the only UK scientist to provide technology to help image and analyse Martian soil as part of NASA’s 2008 Phoenix Mission to Mars. Professor Pike worked on the microscope station that was included in the Phoenix payload.

NASA’s official Phoenix website

Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover

Curiosity is a car-sized rover designed to explore Gale Crater on Mars as part of NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission (MSL). The rover's goals include

- an investigation of the Martian climate and geology
- assessment of whether the selected field site inside Gale Crater has ever offered environmental conditions favorable for microbial life, including investigation of the role of water and planetary habitability studies in preparation for human exploration

Curiosity was launched from Cape Canaveral on November 26, 2011, and landed on Mars 6 August 2012.

Current status: The rover is still operational.

Imperial’s involvement: Professor Sanjeev Gupta, from Imperial’s Department of Earth Science and Engineering, is part of NASA’s Curiosity mission. Every day he analyses data on the geology of Mars, which is beamed back from the Mars Science Laboratory mission’s remote-controlled Curiosity rover.

NASA’s official Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover website

Mars InSight

InSight (Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport) is a Mars lander designed to give the Red Planet its first thorough check up since it formed 4.5 billion years ago. It is the first outer space robotic explorer to study in-depth the "inner space" of Mars: its crust, mantle, and core.

Current status:  Landed on Mars on 26 November 2018.

Imperial’s involvement: Professor Tom Pike, from Imperial’s Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, is part of the Mars Insight team. The Imperial team designed and fabricated silicon sensors as part of the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS), which will detect tremors below the Martian surface.

NASA’s official InSight website

ExoMars Rover

ExoMars (Exobiology on Mars) is a two-part astrobiology project to search for evidence of life on Mars, a joint mission of the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Russian space agency Roscosmos. 

Current status: The second part of the mission is planned to launch in 2020, and to land a rover on the surface, supporting a science mission that is expected to last into 2022 or beyond.

Imperial’s involvement: Professor Sanjeev Gupta, from Imperial’s Department of Earth Science and Engineering, is a co-investigator on the Pancam camera team on the ExoMars 2020 mission.

ESA official ExoMars website

Mars 2020 Rover

Mars 2020 is an as-yet-unnamed Mars rover mission by NASA's Mars Exploration Program. It will investigate an astrobiologically relevant ancient environment on Mars, investigate its surface geological processes and history, including the assessment of its past habitability, the possibility of past life on Mars, and the potential for preservation of biosignatures within accessible geological materials.

The rover's design is derived from the Curiosity rover, and will use many components already fabricated and tested, but it will carry different scientific instruments and a core drill.

Current status: Planned for launch in July 2020.

Imperial’s involvement: Professor Tom Pike is the co-investigator of Mars 2020’s Mars Oxygen ISRU Experiment (MOXIE) payload - an exploration technology investigation that will produce a small amount of oxygen from Martian atmospheric carbon dioxide. The concept is that this technology could be scaled up in the future for human life support or to make rocket fuel for return missions.

Professor Sanjeev Gupta, from Imperial’s Department of Earth Science and Engineering is a collaborator on the Mastcam-Z camera team and a science team member.

NASA official Mars 2020 Rover website