The ESA’s Mars Express orbiter has captured this fantastic image of the Ladon Basin, specifically of this spectacular double impact crater:
The pair are named Sigli and Shambe and are believed to have been formed by a single object that broke into two larch fragments just before impacting the surface of Mars.
The shape and shallow nature of the impact crater suggest that it was formed when an asteroid or comet hits a planet at a reasonably shallow angle.
This particular pair is 16km across and shows significant fracturing of the crater floor. The pair also show signs of being partially filled with sedimentary material at some point after their formation. This implies that they may well have been lakes, as such material is only deposited under water, hinting once more of Mars’ more environmentally pleasant past.
You can read more about this image here
In around eight hours at 06:31 am, (I’m not counting, honest) the Mars Curiosity Rover will begin her descent into the Martian atmosphere and, if all of the many stages of descent and landing go perfectly, begin her mission.
The mission itself is to find out if the past – or present – environment on mars was suitable for microbial life to inhabit the soil. The mission will last as long as Curiosity does, her plutonium power source will give her enough power to be our interplanetary geologist for at least 687 days; a Martian year.
As of an hour ago Curiosity was just 142,783 km away from Mars, less than a third of the distance Earth is from the Moon. If you’d like to know plenty more snippets like this I suggest following @MSL_101 on twitter or the official NASA account, @MarsCuriosity.
I also had to share this brilliant NASA Jet Propulsion Lab video describing the challenges faced during descent. Unsurprisingly it’s described as ‘the seven minutes of terror’:
You can find a good summary of the mission here!
NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has produced a truly stunning image of a Martian dust devil using its High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) instrument.
The Devil is about 12 miles high (though only 70 meters across) and was produced as the Sun warmed the ground in such a way that a vortex was created. This sort of weather feature is most common when the sun’s heating effect is felt most strongly and fittingly this particular event occurred just two weeks before the northern hemisphere’s summer solstice.
NASA scientists have put together this video showing the dust devil in action
You can read more about this weather phenomenon here
NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), has used its High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (or HiRISE – and yes I know what you are thinking, and yes they did do that deliberately), to capture this amazing image of the Santa Maria Crater, including the rover Opportunity sitting on the crater’s edge.
The astounding detail of the image also shows the tracks of the rover on the left hand side of the image.
The small blob indicated by the arrow is the rover itself.
The image was captured on the first of March 2011 which corresponds to Opportunity’s 2,524th Martian day of operation on the Red planet.
NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory, Curiosity has successfully completed the largest course correction planed for its journey to the Red Planet.
Over the course of three hours yesterday, the spacecraft’s thrusters were used to slightly alter the course of the probe ensuring it reaches Mars at the correct time for successful landing at the Gale Crater. Thanks to this course alteration, the craft is on target to reach Mars on the sixth of August this year.
The manoeuvre also corrects the inbuilt inaccuracy in the launch trajectory that ensures the upper stage of the launch vehicle does not impact Mars.
This is necessary as the upper stage was not subjected to the rigorous cleaning regime the probe itself was subjected to, and as such it may be carrying microorganisms from Earth that could contaminate Mars’ environment.
You can read more here.
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