Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Spots Traces Of Older Mars Landers
NASA said on Wednesday that a camera onboard its Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter recorded the first color image of Mars Exploration Rover Spirit’s landing platform.
The image was taken using the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on the orbiter.
Spirit drove off the three-petal lander in January 2004, and spent most of its six-year life in the range of hills about two miles to the east.
NASA reported on May 1, 2009 that the rover got stuck in soft soil, officially ending the mission to get the rover unstuck on January 26, 2010.
Another recent image from HiRise taken on January 26, 2012, shows NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander and its surroundings on far-northern Mars after the spacecraft’s second Martian winter.
Previous color images show the Spirit rover itself, but all previous HiRISE views of the lander that delivered Spirit were in black and white.
The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has been orbiting Mars with six science instruments since 2006. The orbiter continues to provide insights into the planet’s ancient environments and how processes like wind, meteorite impacts and seasonal frosts are continuing to affect the surface of the Red Planet.
Over 21,000 images taken by HiRISE are available online, and each observation covers several square miles and can reveal features as small as a desk.
NASA’s next Mars mission, the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover, is expected to land on Mars on August 5, 2012.
Image 1: Near the lower left corner of this view is the three-petal lander platform that NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Spirit drove off in January 2004. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona
Image 2: This image, taken Jan. 26, 2012, shows NASA’s no-longer-active Phoenix Mars Lander spacecraft after its second Martian arctic winter. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona
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