Mars Express: 10 years of capturing the Red Planet in full color (pictures)
Ten years ago this week, Mars Express took its very first images of Mars in color and 3D. Here are a dozen images showing the planet up close, craters and all.
Hebes Chasma mesa
Mars Express, the first planetary explorer for the European Space Agency, is celebrating 10 years of taking images of the Red Planet. Using data obtained from the High-Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) onboard, the spacecraft has returned hundreds of images since the mission began.
The HRSC has been imaging the planet in color and 3D with a resolution of about 10 meters. Selected areas have been imaged in even greater detail, at a 2-meter resolution. One of the camera's greatest strengths is the pointing accuracy achieved by combining images at the two different resolutions, along with the perspective view of the 3D imaging created with the MARSIS (Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionospheric Sounding) which has revealed the topography of Mars in full color.
"As the 2-metre resolution image is nested in a 10-metre resolution swath, we will know precisely where we are looking. The 2-metre resolution channel will allow us to pick out great detail on the surface," says Gerhard Neukum, HRSC principal investigator from Freie Universität Berlin, Germany.
Here, Mars Express offers a close-up view of the mesa inside Hebes Chasma. Material has slumped down onto the floor of the valley below, and along the side of the mound fine horizontal layering is seen, likely a mix of wind-blown dust and ancient lake sediments, along with remnants of more ancient plateaus.
This long, unnamed depression is located just south of the much larger Huygens crater. About 78 km in length, it opens from just under 10 km wide at one end to 25 km wide at the other, and reaches a depth of 2 km. ESA scientists say they believe the surrounding blanketed material looks as if it may have been ejected from an impact.
In the distant past, the ESA says, large volumes of water must have rushed through the Ares Vallis. Streamlined islands have been eroded on the valley floor, indicating the direction taken by the water in this image captured on May 11, 2011.
In the ancient cratered southern highlands of Mars, the ESA says, traces of a wet past are seen in the form of channels visible in the lower center of the image, fluidized debris around craters at the bottom right, and blocks of eroded sediments seen in the top left.
The image was taken by the High-Resolution Stereo Camera on Mars Express on January 15, 2013, with a ground resolution of approximately 22 meters per pixel.
The carved channel along the valley floor at Reull Vallis is believed to have been formed by flowing water or ice, which eons ago had cut through the highland terrain to form smooth plains, much like the glacial valleys of Earth.