The CRISM and HiRISE instruments have given the orbiter's science team and the public much to celebrate as they show us Mars in unprecedented detail.
Less than a year since Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter arrived at Mars and less than four months since its science phase began, instruments aboard the spacecraft are not just sending back stunning images, but making good on the promise to advance our fundamental knowledge of our neighboring planet.
CRISM has looked at recently-formed craters that NASA's champion Mars Global Surveyor mission had imaged over its amazing 10-year journey around Mars. The powerful spectrometer allows scientists to better characterize these impact sites as well as identify specific minerals in and around them. The instrument is also examining areas in the northern plains where NASA's Phoenix scout mission is set to land in May of 2008. It is vital to understand this extremely hostile environment before landing spacecraft there.
Meanwhile, on another part of the instrument deck, the HiRISE camera has been producing images with unprecedented resolution and clarity. Select images have revealed what scientists call "haloes." They believe these are the effects of liquid or gas that flowed through underground rocks on ancient Mars. Since we recognize water as a fundamental part of life as we know it on Earth, any detection of liquid - ancient or recent - on Mars could indicate conditions ripe for microbial life.
HiRISE: Press release