As seen in this artist’s concept, the ‘Blue and Gold’ orbiters – the ESCAPADE mission – will launch to Mars in 2024. They just passed their final mission review. Image via Rocket Lab/ UC Berkeley.
Blue and Gold orbiters
Mars is a busy place these days. There are currently eight active orbiters at Mars, originating from the U.S., Europe, Russia, India and China. In late August 2021, Miles Hatfield wrote in a NASA blog post that two more orbiters will be joining the fleet. Dubbed Blue and Gold, they’re part of NASA’s ESCAPADE mission, and they’ve just passed mission review. They’re due to launch in 2024.
ESCAPADE stands for Escape and Plasma Acceleration and Dynamics Explorers. The University of California, Berkeley, is taking the lead on the mission. It’ll study Mars’ magnetosphere and atmosphere, and the solar wind.
The recent mission review – called Key Decision Point C – ended August 17. So now the mission has moved into its next phase. Specifically, the coming phase will include the final design and building of the instruments that’ll ride aboard the Blue and Gold orbiters. As Rob Lillis at UC Berkeley, principal investigator for ESCAPADE, said in the NASA blog: