Last month the NASA Smartphone “app” posted three photos from Mars that will make you go “Wow!”
They are an unusual water-layered mound, a golf ball-sized meteorite and the evidence that Europe’s unmanned lander went “splat!”
The first image from Mars is credited to NASA, Jet Propulsion Lab at Caltech, and the amazing camera system built by Malin Space Science Services is the unusual rock mound that NASA’s car-sized rover Curiosity drove by in October 2016.
Actually a layered, rocky, 50-foot butte of water-deposited sandstone, it is part of a group called Murray Buttes that are along the route Curiosity is taking as it slowly ascends 3-mile-high Mt. Sharp.
Now in its fifth year, Curiosity continues to accumulate clues about how Mars has changed 3 billion years ago from a planet with lakes and rivers—and most likely life—to the cold and barren world covered in rusted iron oxide from the belching of the largest volcanoes in the Solar System.
Mars photo Number 2 (credit NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS) has a golf ball-sized black meteorite informally named “Egg Rock” lying harmlessly on a Martian rock slab, laced with mineral veins and dusted with grey gravel.
This iron-nickel alien rock, lying on an alien world, was zapped with a powerful ChemCam laser-firing spectrometer from Earth. Close-up views show the six white blast marks that reveal the make-up of the cosmic interloper. Most likely a piece of an asteroid, it traveled for millions of years to find the Red Planet in its way. And miraculously, this Martian meteorite was found by Curiosity.
And the final image we credit to NASA/JPL-CalTech and the University of Arizona is the Nov. 1st image of where the European Space Agency’s small stationary lander Schiaparelli crashed on Oct. 19, 2016.
The lander was part of the ESA’s ExoMars mission that put the Trace Gas Orbiter into operation on Oct. 19th while the lander failed. Space engineers have figured out that after reentry, the parachute detached too early and then the landing retrorockets fired and prematurely shut down, resulting in the Schiaparelli spacecraft crashing at 180 mph.
NASA Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) found the impact crater and strewn wreckage with the most powerful space camera ever built, University of Arizona’s High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE).
MRO and HiRISE found three locations where parts of the spacecraft reached the Martian surface: the lander module itself in the upper photo, the parachute and back shell at lower left, and the heat shield at lower right.
For more interplanetary images that make you go “Wow!” check out the photojournal page of the Jet Propulsion Lab: http//photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov.