03.09.2017 Back-to-Back Martian Dust Storms
02.08.2017 Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Observes Changes
01.25.2017 'Wing' Dike of Hardened Lava in New Mexico
01.25.2017 Blade-Like Martian Walls Outline Polygons
01.06.2017 Earth and Its Moon, as Seen From Mars
11.15.2016 Schiaparelli Impact Site on Mars, Stereo
11.03.2016 Schiaparelli Impact Site on Mars, in Color
03.30.2016 Erisa Hines
03.30.2016 Buzz Aldrin
03.21.2016 For a Decade Orbiting Mars: One Recent View
03.09.2016 For a Decade Orbiting Mars: One Recent View
03.09.2016 Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter By the Numbers
03.01.2016 MRO sees Frosty Spring Slopes
02.12.2016 Women in Science
02.10.2016 Wind at Work
11.16.2015 Change Observed in Martian Sand Dune
10.05.2015 'The Martian' Story's Ares 4 Landing Site
10.05.2015 The Ares 3 Landing Site (Figure A)
09.30.2015 Avalanche Ho!
06.29.2015 Mars Exploration Zone Layout Considerations
06.17.2015 Active High-Latitude Dune Gullies
06.03.2015 Crisp Crater in Sirenum Fossae
05.20.2015 Sedimentary Rock Layers on a Crater Floor
05.20.2015 Honey, I Shrunk the Mesas
05.11.2015 Icy Wonderland
05.04.2015 Diverse Orbits Around Mars
03.27.2015 South Pole Spiders
03.27.2015 A Smile a Day....
03.25.2015 Pitted Landforms in Southern Hellas Planitia
03.12.2015 Curiosity Heading Away from 'Pahrump Hills'
02.18.2015 Lava Flow Near the Base of Olympus Mons
02.09.2015 Yardangs in Arsinoes Chaos, Mars
02.04.2015 Curiosity Rover at 'Pahrump Hills'
01.22.2015 Frost on Crater Slope
01.16.2015 Components of Beagle 2 Flight System on Mars
12.03.2014 An Enigmatic Feature in Athabasca Lava Flows
12.02.2014 NASA's Journey to Mars
Could This Be the Mars Soviet 3 Lander?This set of images shows what might be hardware from the Soviet Union's 1971 Mars 3 lander, seen in a pair of images from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
The possible Mars 3 lander hardware was found by an Internet group of Russian citizen enthusiasts who follow news about Mars and NASA's Curiosity rover.
In 1971, the former Soviet Union launched the Mars 2 and Mars 3 missions to Mars. Each consisted of an orbiter plus a lander. Both orbiter missions succeeded, although the surface of Mars was obscured by a planet-encircling dust storm. The Mars 2 lander crashed. Mars 3 became the first successful soft landing on the Red Planet, but stopped transmitting after just 14.5 seconds for unknown reasons.
The predicted landing site was at latitude 45 degrees south, longitude 202 degrees east, in Ptolemaeus Crater. HiRISE acquired a large image at this location in November 2007. This image (HiRISE catalog PSP_006154_1345) contains 1.8 billion pixels of data, so about 2,500 typical computer screens would be needed to view the entire image at full resolution. Promising candidates for the hardware from Mars 3 were found on Dec. 31, 2012.
Vitali Egorov from St. Petersburg, Russia, heads the largest Russian Internet community about Curiosity, at http://vk.com/curiosity_live. His subscribers did the preliminary search for Mars 3 via crowdsourcing. Egorov modeled what Mars 3 hardware pieces should look like in a HiRISE image, and the group carefully searched the many small features in this large image, finding what appear to be viable candidates in the southern part of the scene. Each candidate has a size and shape consistent with the expected hardware, and they are arranged on the surface as expected from the entry, descent and landing sequence. An advisor to the group, Alexander Basilevsky, of Vernadsky Institute of Geochemistry and Analytical Chemistry, Moscow, contacted Alfred McEwen, principal investigator for HiRISE, suggesting a follow-up image. HiRISE acquired this image (ESP_031036_1345) on March 10, 2013. The image was targeted to cover some of the hardware candidates in color and to get a second look with different illumination angles. Meanwhile, Basilevsky and Egorov contacted Russian engineers and scientists who worked on Mars 3 for more information.
The candidate parachute is the most distinctive and unusual feature in the images. It is an especially bright spot for this region, about 8.2 yards (7.5 meters) in diameter. The parachute would have a diameter of 12 yards (11 meters) if fully spread out over the surface, so this is consistent. In the second HiRISE image the parachute appears to have brightened over much of its surface. The brightening is probably due to better illumination over the sloping surface, but it is also possible that dust was removed during the intervening years, resulting in brightening of the parachute. HiRISE recently showed that the parachute of the Mars Science Laboratory mission has shifted in the wind (see http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA16813), which might also kick off dust.
The descent module or retrorocket was attached to the lander container by a chain, and the candidate feature has the right size and even shows a linear extension that could be a chain. Nearby the candidate descent module is a feature with the right size and shape to be the actual lander, with four open petals. The image of the candidate heat shield matches a shield-shaped object with the right size if partly buried.
Together, this set of features and their layout on the ground provide a remarkable match to what is expected from the Mars 3 landing, but alternative explanations for the features cannot be ruled out. Further analysis of the data and future images to better understand the 3-dimensional shapes may help to confirm this interpretation.
HiRISE is one of six instruments on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The University of Arizona, Tucson, operates HiRISE, which was built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., Boulder, Colo. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Project for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, built the spacecraft.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona