Since August, 2005 the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has been travelling around Mars on a mission to find evidence that water exists on the surface of Mars. To manage your expectations, they’re not anticipating a swimming pool complete with diving board for little Martians, or Matt Damon for that matter, just enough to give us an indication that some sort of basic life-form could exist and survive on the planet.
Early in August this year, NASA released over 1,000 new images of Mars’ surface. The pictures were taken by HiRISE – the highest resolution camera to ever be carried aboard an orbiter (remember there’s no swimming pools, so this water is going to be small, and your iPhone just wasn’t going to cut the mustard here). Previous cameras were able to identify bus-sized objects (there are no buses on Mars!), whilst HiRISE can identify objects as small as 1 metre in size (there are also no puddles but we’re getting closer to the sort of thing we’re after!).
New images reveal a lot about the mysterious planet, including some fascinating information about the many craters on Mars. The pictures show that some craters were created by collisions with objects such as asteroids (Mars also has no Bruce Willis type person to stop this happening), whilst others are the result of volcanic activity.
The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter will continue to keep an eye on the active processes on the surface. This includes steep slope flows, migrating sand dunes, dry ice jets, and new impact events (not sounding like the ideal spot for a holiday right now is it!).
It will also help map the planet, allowing for better knowledge of good landing spots for future missions, although don’t expect an Ordnance Survey map anytime soon!
You can view the images here