Attention: Calling All Explorers for a Martian Treasure Hunt!

Space . . . the final frontier. In the past, we’ve been awed with images from the Hubble. But now mankind can now tweet from outer space. The time has come for us to delve deeper into the unknown.  Attention: Calling all explorers for a Martian treasure hunt! No spacesuit is required. The human race can help discover new alien landscapes from the comfort of their computer chairs. Ready, set, click! Mars or bust…

Mars and Phobos

(image credit:TopTechWriter.US)

Once upon a time, this was all the closer we had ever come to Mars. The smaller object is little more than an asteroid, but Phobos is the biggest of Mars’ two moons. Phobos has no atmosphere and very little gravity. President Obama did not give a good review to NASA’s human space exploration policy. With limited funding, neither man nor rockets may be going to the moon, nevertheless Mars, anytime soon. Is Phobos really all the closer mankind will come to Mars in the future?

Rover Spirit About To Bite the Big One

(image credit:NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Red Rover, Red Rover, your mission is nearly over. The above image is from the front hazard-avoidance camera on NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Spirit, taken on Jan. 23, 2010. It was the 2,154th Martian day of the rover’s mission on Mars. After six years exploring the Red Planet, NASA’s Rover Spirit is no longer a free roaming robot. Rover is reduced to a stationary science platform. Although it is not yet dead, its final resting place will be the sand trap where Rover Spirit is stuck.

So what does that mean for mankind? It means it’s time for us to step up to the plate and investigate Mars ourselves.

Did you snort with disbelief? We can do it with the help of High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment, or HiRISE, and an online tool called HiWish. HiRISE is one of six instruments on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). And now the public has been invited to propose imaging targets to see your favorite spot on Mars at people-scale resolution. We can pick pixels to view images the size of a desk.

Candidate Landing Site in NE Syrtis Major

(image credits:NASA/JPL/University of Arizona)

Fasten your seatbelts and prepare for landing. This image lies in the middle of a candidate landing site near a huge shield volcano and a giant impact basin. The bedrock could be more than 4 billions years old! This is but one recently released HiRISE image that is suggested as an excellent place to explore early Mars . . . when the environment might have been favorable for life. Men may be from Mars and women may be from Venus, but with the help of HiWish, we can unite to discover new treasures on the Red Planet.

Mars: Then and Now

(image credits:NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona,ESA,NASA,NASA/JPL/University of Arizona,NASA/JPL/University of Arizona)

The top furry looking picture was taken by HiRise and is of the Starburst Spider. Before HiRISE kicked into high gear on Mars in 2006, the Mars Express Orbiter provided the HRSC image on the upper right. It was one of the first good shots of ice in a Martian crater. The image on the middle left was captured by Spirit’s panoramic camera during its 1,892nd Martian day. It is three images combined to show the soft soil exposed when wheels of NASA’s Rover Spirit dug into a patch of ground dubbed “Troy.” At the bottom left is a digital terrain model of Victoria Crater, a possible Opportunity Rover Landing Site. On the right are contortions on the floor of Hellas Basin, a basin often hidden by atmospheric haze and dust. This clear shot shows that materials like ice appear to have flowed in a viscous manner.

Digital Terrain Models

(image credits:NASA/JPL/University of Arizona)

HiRISE DTMs are stereo pairs, made from two images of the same area on the ground, but they are taken from different angles. The three basic stages of creating a DTM are complicated tasks, involving sophisticated software, long computing times and lots of man-hours. Above, from left to right are the following DTMs:1)Layered rock outcrops in southwest Candor Chasma. 2)North Polar Trough with curved exposure. 3)Ring and cone structures, plus dunes and other landforms in Athabasca Valles. 4)Putative salt deposits in Terra Sirenum. 5)Potential new gully with bright deposits. 6)Dissected wall of Mojave Crater. 7)Mars Exploration Rover landing site at Gusev Crater. 8)Eroded scallops with layers.

Colorful Streaks

(image credit:NASA/JPL/University of Arizona)

HiRISE captured these colorful streaks in the central pit of an impact crater, located in the ancient Martian highlands. The HiRISE camera onboard the MRO is the most powerful one of its kind ever sent to another planet. Its extremely high resolution allows us to see Mars like never before, helping other missions choose a safe landing site for future exploration. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory manages the MRO, but the HiRISE camera is operated by the University of Arizona.

Megabreccia in Toro Crater

(image credit:NASA/JPL/University of Arizona)

This false color image covers the western half of Toro Crater’s central peak. This 42 kilometer diameter crater is in Syrtis Major. Colorful patches of megabreccia make Toro Crater a great target for HiRISE. Scientists think that megabreccia may have formed during a period of frequent impact craters in Mars’ early history. HiRISE frequently targets the central peaks of craters because these features tend to bring up rocks like megabreccia that are usually buried under the surface. So far, HiRISE has found megabreccia in more than a hundred places on Mars.

18 Science Themes

(image credits:HiRise)

To join in the hunt, go to the HiWish Public Suggestion Page. Use the online tool HiWish and place your rectangle on the map of Mars where you’d like to look. Anyone, regardless of education, can nominate a target. First identify the location on a map, give an observation title, and then explain the potential scientific benefit of HiRISE photographing the site. Lastly, put the suggestion into one of the camera team’s 18 science themes that can be found above and voilà! Submit your potential Martian treasure. Our suggestions are looked at, science themes are prioritized, observations are validated, and if imaged, then released to the public.

Cool Mars HiRISE Images

(image credits:NASA/JPL/University of Arizona)

Not all of the HiRISE images have spectacular names, but the pictures are astounding. You could help with that and submit your choice, your wish, with HiWish. Without further ado, here are some more cool pictures of Mars. The top left is titled USGS Dune Database Entry (ESP_014426_2070). On the top right is The Dark Spot on Mars. Those blotchy spots at the middle left are of the South Polar Carbon Dioxide Ice Cap. The middle right image is the Sand Dunes and Ripples in Proctor Crater. On the bottom left is Jezero Crater. At the bottom right, Falling Material Kicks Up a Cloud of Dust on Dunes.

More Awesome Martian Landscapes Captured by HiRISE

(image credits:NASA/JPL/University of Arizona)

The top image is of the Mars Endurance Crater. The image in the middle shows dune symmetry inside a Martian crater. The photo on bottom shows dunes again, but these are frost-covered dunes inside a crater.

More From Mars

(image credits:NASA/JPL/University of Arizona,NASA/JPL/University of Arizona)

It is at this time unknown if mankind will ever take an outer space adventure on the scale of moving to and inhabiting Mars. How mind-blowing would it be, however, to live there and to look out over such alien landscapes? That scaly looking image on the top left is of bright layered deposits with clues of acidic water. On the top right is an oblique view of the Victoria Crater. The middle right image gives us a closer look at water-related geologic activity on Mars. The bottom left is a meter-scale morphology of the north polar region of Mars. At the bottom right, that bizarre image has an uninspiring title, USGS Dune Database Entry.

Conspiracy Theory: Man on Mars?

(image credits:NASA/JPL/University of Arizona)

We’ve all heard of crop circles and pyramids designed by aliens, possibly Martians. There are also “ancient landing strips” theoretically created by ancient aliens who once lived on Earth. We’ve also heard of the “man in the moon,” but this USGS Dune Database Entry Number seems to resemble a man’s outline on Mars. Or it is a Martian’s outline? Conspiracy theories will never die, so if you are a conspiracy theorist then you too had better get busy using HiWish to get the view you most wish to see on Mars. Despite the thousands of pictures already taken, less than 1% of the Red Planet’s surface has been imaged. The HiRISE science team will evaluate suggestions and put high-priority ones into a queue. Thousands of pending targets from scientists as well as the public will be imaged.

Earth & Moon As Seen From Mars…Our Future?

(image credit:NASA/JPL/University of Arizona)

This is the view from Mars, looking out at Earth and the moon. Will it someday be the view of some brave souls who moved to the Red Planet? Here’s your Martian treasure map, HiRISE online image viewer, to get started. Take part in HiRISE and HiWish. If your children or grandchildren someday ask, wouldn’t you like to say you answered the call and helped explore Mars?


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