NASA's InSight has been busy. After landing on the Red Planet, the mission sent home pictures and sound, then placed its first instrument on the planet's surface. Plus, find out what the Curiosity rover has been up to.
A new map of Mars' gravity made with three NASA spacecraft is the most detailed to date, providing a revealing glimpse into the hidden interior of the Red Planet. Satellites always orbit a planet's center of mass, but can be pulled slightly off course by the gravity of massive features like Olympus Mons, the solar system's tallest mountain. Now, scientists at Goddard Space Flight Center have used these slight orbital fluctuations to map the gravity field of Mars, providing fresh insights into its crustal thickness, deep interior, and seasonal variations of dry ice at the poles. The new gravity map will also help to put future spacecraft into orbit more precisely, ensuring that the Mars fleet continues to return a massive trove of data.
NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has clocked more than a decade of service at the Red Planet and has yielded scientific discoveries and magnificent views of a distant world. These images taken by MRO's HiRISE camera are not in true color because they are optimized for geological science. (Audio: music only)
Explanation on how CRISM hyperspectral images are used to understand the history and formation of Valles Marineris, one of the largest canyons in the solar system, and how the data is used to unravel the ancient environments of Mars.
This animation simulates a flyover of a portion of a Martian canyon detailed in a geological map produced by the U.S. Geological Survey and based on observations by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
The map shows the structure and geology of a western portion of Mars' Candor Chasma, one of the largest canyons within the longest canyon system in the solar system, Valles Marineris. The landforms include a series of hills called Candor Colles.
This movie sequence of images from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) shows comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring before and after its close pass by Mars in October 2014. False color enhances subtle variations in brightness in the comet's coma. (No audio) Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona
This movie begins with an animation (artist's rendering) of NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft above Mars. The scene zooms into an "X-ray" view of the spacecraft, revealing the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera. The movie then transitions to a sequence of HiRISE images of the comet taken as it flew past Mars. (No audio) Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona
This animation shows how NASA's Curiosity rover communicates with Earth via two of NASA's Mars orbiters, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) and Odyssey, and the European Space Agency's Mars Express. The rover sends the signals to the orbiters, which then passes them on to Earth. This allows for more data to be transmitted at a faster rate.
The paths of the orbiters around Mars are shown, in addition to the location of Curiosity within Gale Crater. The movie then switches to the perspective of the rover, showing the route of MRO overhead.
Back on Earth, the signals are picked up by large antenna dishes at NASA's Deep Space Network (DSN), which has three complexes in Goldstone, Calif., Madrid, Spain and Canberra, Australia. The DSN sends the information to Curiosity's mission control at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Calif. (No audio)
Follow along on a tour of the landing scene of NASA's Curiosity rover in this video made up of images from two NASA orbiters. The movie begins with a global image from NASA's Mars Global Surveyor, then switches to views from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. As we zoom closer and closer into Gale Crater, the components of Curiosity's landing system come into view: The heat shield was the first piece to hit the ground, followed by the back shell attached to the parachute, then the rover itself touched down, and finally, after cables were cut, the sky crane flew away to the northwest and crashed. (No audio)
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona
This animation shows NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter flying over NASA's Curiosity (shown in pink) as the rover lands on the Red Planet. The video is slowed down as the orbiter approaches the landing site for better viewing. Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter will capture data during Curiosity's entry, descent and landing for later playback to Earth. Its High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera will attempt to take an image of Curiosity as it descends to the surface (green).
HiRISE is one of six instruments on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The University of Arizona, Tucson, operates the orbiter's HiRISE camera, which was built by Ball Aerospace and 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. (No audio)
This artist's animation shows how NASA's Curiosity rover will communicate with Earth via two of NASA's Mars orbiters, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and Odyssey. As the rover descends to the surface of Mars, it will send out two different types of data: basic radio-frequency tones that go directly to Earth (pink dashes) and more complex UHF radio data (blue circles). Odyssey will pick up the UHF signal and relay it immediately back to Earth (seen as a beam of small blue circles). Meanwhile, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter will record the UHF data and play it back to Earth at a later time.
Back on Earth, the rover's signals are picked up by large antenna dishes at NASA's Deep Space Network (DSN), which has three complexes in Goldstone, Calif., Madrid, Spain and Canberra, Australia. The DSN sends the information to Curiosity's mission control at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Calif. (No audio)
With the spacecraft safely captured into orbit, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter team transitions to the next critical phase -- aerobraking. Learn how engineers slow the spacecraft and precisely shape its orbit using the dynamic atmosphere of Mars.
Hitting a moving target over 306 million miles away is no easy feat. Learn how JPL navigation engineers have guided the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter toward its mission-critical capture into orbit around the red planet.
The logistical challenge of getting a mission sent to Mars begins years before liftoff and culminates in the stressful days just prior to launch. This video highlights teams at JPL, Kennedy Space Center and Lockheed Martin working together to prepare for a complex launch amid the ever-changing weather of August in Florida.
From one side of the country to the other, through a snowstorm and other delays, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter made its way to Kennedy Space Center in Florida for final processing and rehearsals before launch. Hitch a ride on the C-17 cargo plane that carried the next generation of Mars explorers to its final Earth-bound destination.
Getting a spacecraft to Mars is no walk in the park - as launch engineers are well aware. But when the spacecraft in question is among the largest ever sent to the red planet, there are specific challenges that must be overcome. Hear from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter team just what it will take to get the mission on its way.