The main news of last month is that three new spacecraft reached the vicinity of Mars, the most famous of course being Perseverance. In addition, something unusual was found on the moon and a fantastic map was made.
Having three spacecraft reaching Mars within a week was not a coincidence. Perseverance, Hope and Questions to Heaven were all launched months ago with the plan of reaching the cliché-red planet while it is at its closest to Earth.
Perseverance, the 5th rover by NASA on Mars, captured the global audience with its live and really well televised landing. Its main goal contributes a lot to this fascination, as it is meant to find whether life ever existed on Mars; at least in one of its lakes, most probably in microbial form. However, the question will probably remain open until the samples that the rover takes fly back to Earth, at an unknown point in the future when a return flight from Mars becomes possible. (To top it all, it also carries what aspires to be the first helicopter to fly on another planet.)
Meanwhile Tianwen-1 (yes, meaning Questions to Heaven 1), sent by the China National Space Administration, entered martian orbit succesfully and will spent there a few months before attempting to land its own rover. The main goals here are exploring the geology, atmosphere, and past presence of water.
As for Hope, the orbiter sent by the United Arab Emirates, it will study the martian weather. Meanwhile it reminds me of the first lines of the classic SF novel “Red Mars”, where a theocracy succeeds in sending families to Mars as part of its colonization program, with their female half being suppressed and illiterate.
(Of course, then, Perseverance was sent by the only OECD country without mandatory paid maternity leave.)
However, another discovery brings to mind a different kind of SF. And we’re talking about monoliths on the moon.
No, seriously. The chinese rover Yutu 2 which arrived at the dark side of the moon with the Chang’e 4 lander two years ago, found an elongated rock that sticks out of the ground. The rock is most probably a shard of a meteor, but it’s still kind of impressive.
And, a map of 25,000 supermassive black holes was created. Each of them looks like a star on the map, but in reality they all sit at the hearts of different galaxies.
All this was done by using 52 astronomical stations with special antennas across Europe, and so far covered just 2% of the whole sky. But it certainly belongs in the collection of great sky maps published recently.