This month (actually, today), Cassini had a relatively close flyby of Titan, and New Horizons will observe a very distant Kuiper belt object named 1994 JR1. Akatsuki has just fine-tuned its orbit around Venus, and Hayabusa2 has begun an 800-hour ion engine thrusting phase to steer it toward near-Earth asteroid Ryugu.
At last week's Lunar and Planetary Science Conference, I enjoyed a large number of talks about Ceres. Now in its Low-Altitude Mapping Orbit, Dawn is showering scientists with high-resolution, color data.
The ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter and Schiaparelli lander are safely on their way to Mars! The two lifted off at 9:31 UTC today, March 14, 2016. Orbiter and lander will arrive at Mars on October 19 at approximately 16:00 UTC. The lander is expected to last about 3 days. The orbiter will spend a year aerobraking before beginning its science mission.
ESA's ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter and Schiaparelli lander are in the final preparations for a launch as early as Monday, toward an October 2016 Mars orbit insertion and landing in Meridiani Planum. Launch on a Proton rocket is expected at 09:31:42 UT Monday, March 14. A Breeze-M upper stage will send the spacecraft on to Mars, with separation at 20:13 UT.
NASA has decided to move forward with the InSight mission after its delay last December, setting a new launch date of May 5, 2018. That will put the landing on Mars on November 26, 2018. In order to launch in two years, one of its two science instruments must be redesigned.
Welcome to my monthly inventory of the 20-plus spacecraft actively exploring our solar system. Highlights of this month include the impending launch of the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter and Schiaparelli lander, currently planned for March 14, and the resumption of regular VMC Mars images by Mars Express.