A New Map of Mars, Made From 51,000 Orbital Images

Seen are six views of the Nili Fossae region of Mars captured by the Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars, or CRISM, one of the instruments aboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The varying colors represent minerals on the Martian surface seen in different wavelengths of light. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/JHU-APL

When NASA sent the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) to the red planet in 2006, the spacecraft took an instrument with it called CRISM—Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars. CRISM’s job is to produce maps of Mars’ surface mineralogy. It’s been an enormous success, but unfortunately, the loss of its last cryocooler in 2017 means the spectrometer can only undertake limited observations.

But CRISM is going out with a bang, creating one final image of the surface of Mars that NASA will release in batches over the next six months.

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This is Where the Mars Sample Return Mission Could be Landing

This image was acquired based on a hopeful scenario in which the Perseverance rover has an extended mission or two and travels outside of Jezero Crater to explore terrains to the west. In this scenario, the decision could be made to land the Mars Sample Return (MSR) mission here to pick up samples collected by Perseverance. MSR will probably not land here, but acquisition of a HiRISE stereo pair provides the data needed to assess the risk of landing. The cutout shows that there are diverse colors and textures, so this would be an interesting region to explore. Image Credit: NASA/JPL/UArizona

NASA’s Perseverance Rover is busy exploring Jezero Crater on Mars. Part of its mission is to collect samples for retrieval by a future mission. NASA and the ESA haven’t determined where the sample return mission will land yet.

That depends on the Perseverance mission and how it spends the rest of its time on Mars. But we know of one possible—albeit ambitious—landing spot: just west of Jezero Crater.

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