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Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter

Mister Nizz

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Astonishing Imagery of Mars Surface

I just noticed this over at the New Scientist Space news feed. Text abstract is copyright New Scientist Space 2007, Full article referenced HERE

Probe's powerful camera spots Vikings on Mars
12:29 05 December 2006
NewScientist.com news service
David Chandler

After three decades lost on the Red Planet, Viking 2's backshell is spotted from space (Image: NASA) It is a feat millions of times more impressive than finding a needle in a haystack. The new Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has spotted about a dozen spacecraft on the Martian surface and, incredibly, taken pictures of such sharpness that scientists have been able to identify individual rocks that were first photographed by the Viking landers in 1976.

The new series of pictures released late on Monday show both of the Viking landers, never spotted from orbit before, as well as their nearby heat shields and backshells. These are the top and bottom covers of the capsules in which the rovers decended through the Martian atmosphere to land.

The MRO has also found the Mars rover Spirit , the pyramid-shaped structure in which it landed, its backshell and parachute. The satellite probe had already found the rover Opportunity and its landing structure, sending back images within its first week of operations in October 2006.

That's pretty astonishing stuff, isn't it? I was aware that the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on the MRO had the best optics that had ever flown into Martian orbit; it takes a picture like this to illustrate how powerful they are! The MRO is easily discerning objects that are roughly the size of a kite. I suspect that NASA released these pictures for the PR benefits, but doesn't diminish the achievement. It's kind of nice to see that old space junk lying around after 20 years, like it will in 100 years, and in 1000 years, and 1,000,000 years...