Giant ice-filled crater on Mars portrays idyllic wintry scene

NASA,NASA insight,NASA instrument on mars

This remarkable photograph is a combination of five different image strips recombined into one that reveals the 51-mile (82 km) wide crater and its ever-present sheet of ice. The ice is more than 1,799 metres thick all year long. This causes a layer of cold air that permanently sits on top of the crater.

The images-which were taken earlier this year using the High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) on ESA's Mars Express orbiter-are a fitting way to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the spacecraft's insertion into the Red Planet's orbit, coming up on Christmas Day.

The crater is named after chief rocket engineer and spacecraft designer Sergei Korolev, dubbed the father of Soviet space technology. This has enabled the ice to remain without melting.

In this file colour-calibrated photo obtained from NASA, InSight's robotic-arm mounted Instrument Deployment Camera shows the instruments on the spacecraft's deck, with the Martian surface of Elysium Planitia in the background on December 4, 2018.

The seismometer, known as the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure, or SEIS, was made by the French space agency, CNES.

It's the first time a robotic arm has lowered an experiment onto the Martian surface. The lander's robotic arm can reach about 5.3 feet, so the seismometer was placed at that distance in front of the lander. It's needed to "complete about three-quarters of our science objectives".

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"Seismometer deployment is as important as landing InSight on Mars", said InSight Principal Investigator Bruce Banerdt, also based at JPL.

"InSight's timetable of activities on Mars has gone better than we hoped", InSight Project Manager Tom Hoffman said in a statement. The ground is slightly tilted, and so flight controllers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, still need to make the seismometer level.

The seismometer will help scientists understand what's happening beneath the Martian surface, detecting "marsquakes" and analyzing seismic waves.

The first seismometer science data should begin to flow back to Earth after the seismometer is in the right position, NASA said.

The orbiter has had far more luck and is now the second longest surviving spacecraft orbiting a planet other than Earth. "I have a bottle ready for the occasion".

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