A new map of Mars' gravity made with three NASA spacecraft is the most detailed to date, providing a revealing glimpse into the hidden interior of the Red Planet. Satellites always orbit a planet's center of mass, but can be pulled slightly off course by the gravity of massive features like Olympus Mons, the solar system's tallest mountain. Now, scientists at Goddard Space Flight Center have used these slight orbital fluctuations to map the gravity field of Mars, providing fresh insights into its crustal thickness, deep interior, and seasonal variations of dry ice at the poles. The new gravity map will also help to put future spacecraft into orbit more precisely, ensuring that the Mars fleet continues to return a massive trove of data.
2015 marks 50 years of successful NASA missions to Mars starting with Mariner 4 in 1965. Since then, a total of 15 robotic missions led by various NASA centers have laid the groundwork for future human missions to the Red Planet. The journey to Mars continues with additional robotic missions planned for 2016 and 2020, and human missions in the 2030s.
This movie begins with an animation (artist's rendering) of NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft above Mars. The scene zooms into an "X-ray" view of the spacecraft, revealing the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera. The movie then transitions to a sequence of HiRISE images of the comet taken as it flew past Mars.
The images were obtained by HiRISE between October 17 and 20, 2014.
For more information on these images and future updates, see http://hirise.lpl.arizona.edu.
HiRISE is one of six instruments on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The University of Arizona, Tucson, operates HiRISE, which was built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., Boulder, Colorado. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Project for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona
Getting to Mars is difficult enough -- staying there is even more challenging. Odyssey met up with Mars on October 24 02:26 UTC (October 23: 7:26 p.m. PDT/10:26 p.m.EDT). That's when the spacecraft executed an engine firing that slowed it down (relative to Mars) and allowed Odyssey to be captured into orbit around Mars. In this final episode, Odyssey team members explain their rigorous preparations for the event.
At the time this video was released, the Odyssey team had successfully completed the third trajectory correction maneuver to adjust the spacecraft's flightpath toward its final aimpoint for entry into Mars orbit. In the second installment of a four-part video series, The Challenges of Getting to Mars, Odyssey navigation team members discuss the challenges of flying from Earth to Mars.
The Odyssey spacecraft was launched toward Mars on April 7, 2001 from Cape Canaveral, Florida. In this four-part video series, Odyssey navigation team members explain the daily challenges of steering a spacecraft 93 million miles from Earth to Mars.
The first episode describes the intense aerobraking phase, which begins two days after the spacecraft arrives at Mars (Mars Orbit Insertion, October 24, 2001). From then on, navigation team members still have three months of difficult maneuvering to do in order to slow the spacecraft down and bring Odyssey into its circular science mapping orbit. Using atmospheric drag to "aerobrake," the spacecraft dips into the Martian atmosphere once every time the spacecraft swings by its closest approach to Mars.
Future episodes discuss the hostile conditions the spacecraft encounters on its journey to Mars, the challenges of communicating with a distant spacecraft, and the upcoming critical event: Mars Orbit Insertion.
This animation shows how NASA's Curiosity rover communicates with Earth via two of NASA's Mars orbiters, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) and Odyssey, and the European Space Agency's Mars Express. The rover sends the signals to the orbiters, which then passes them on to Earth. This allows for more data to be transmitted at a faster rate.
The paths of the orbiters around Mars are shown, in addition to the location of Curiosity within Gale Crater. The movie then switches to the perspective of the rover, showing the route of MRO overhead.
Back on Earth, the signals are picked up by large antenna dishes at NASA's Deep Space Network (DSN), which has three complexes in Goldstone, Calif., Madrid, Spain and Canberra, Australia. The DSN sends the information to Curiosity's mission control at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Calif.
This artist's animation shows how NASA's Curiosity rover will communicate with Earth via two of NASA's Mars orbiters, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and Odyssey. As the rover descends to the surface of Mars, it will send out two different types of data: basic radio-frequency tones that go directly to Earth (pink dashes) and more complex UHF radio data (blue circles). Odyssey will pick up the UHF signal and relay it immediately back to Earth (seen as a beam of small blue circles). Meanwhile, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter will record the UHF data and play it back to Earth at a later time.
Back on Earth, the rover's signals are picked up by large antenna dishes at NASA's Deep Space Network (DSN), which has three complexes in Goldstone, Calif., Madrid, Spain and Canberra, Australia. The DSN sends the information to Curiosity's mission control at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Calif.
The artist's animation depicts how NASA's Curiosity rover will communicate with Earth during landing. As the rover descends to Mars, it will send out basic radio-frequency tones that go directly to Earth. NASA's Odyssey orbiter will then relay more complex UHF radio signals from the rover to Earth.
How do you converse with a robot nearly one hundred million miles away? In this video, Odyssey team members describe communications with the 2001 Mars Odyssey spacecraft using the antennas of the Deep Space Network.