7 stunning images of the Red Planet that make you want to go there
With the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) giving the environmental clearances necessary for Starship to blast off from SpaceX's launch site, we are now a step closer to Elon Musk's long-cherished dream of making a human settlement on Mars.
For centuries, the Red Planet has been a part of human cultures and civilizations, and with the advances in modern technology, we are moving towards a future when humanity will step foot on the planet.
Missions sent to Mars have helped us understand this planet better over the years. While there is a lot more that we need to learn before we set up a human settlement, we already have some breathtaking images of the planet that will make any adventurer yearn to go there.
Layers in Danielson Crater
The Danielson Crater is an impact crater located in the southwest Arabia Terra region of the planet. The crater's diameter is about 42 miles (67 km) and this image captured by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) in 2019 shows sedimentary rock and sand in the crater.
According to NASA, the rock in the crater may have been formed millions of years ago when loose sediments settled into the crater, one layer at a time. Over the years, these layers were cemented in their places and now protrude out like steps on a staircase. Martian winds have scattered sands on these layers, giving it a zebra-stripes-like appearance.
Not all craters on Mars are millions of years old. In December 2019, the MRO captured this relatively new crater at the North Pole of the Red Planet. Low temperatures on the Martian surface have filled the crater with ice. Since we haven't found any traces of water on the planet so far, ice is made after carbon dioxide, the most abundant gas on the planet, has frozen due to low temperatures.
Special credit is also due to the HIRISE camera on the MRO that has managed to capture this crater that is barely 650 feet (200 m) in diameter in fine detail.
However, it is not just the Poles that get Martian frost. By mid-winter, Martian frost reaches down to middle latitudes as well and stays there till summer arrives.
The image above is of a crater at 37 degrees south latitude with frost enhanced in blue color. At times, the Martian equator which receives less sunlight during winters can also show patches of dry ice.
Located on the western edge of Isidis Planitia, the Jezero Crater is just north of the Martian equator. Scientists believe that the 28-mile (45 km) wide crater is home to ancient river delta and could be home to preserved organic molecules and signs of microbial life from ancient times.
Remains of a lake
Around 2.5 billion years ago, Mars faced catastrophic outflows of groundwater that carved out flood channels very quickly in the planet's southern highlands. These flood channels are visible today as basaltic dunes amidst uplifted blocks in an ancient impact crater about 173 miles (280 km) in diameter.
The image above is of a site called Aram Chaos located within this impact crater which also has a large outflow channel named Ares Vallis, that runs for over a thousand miles (1,600 km) towards the northwest into the Northern Lowlands at Chryse Planitia, not very far from where the Mars Pathfinder landed.
Three Moon rises, even four
Unlike the Earth, Mars has two moons; Phobos and Deimos. And one can watch both of them rise when on the planet.
The larger of the two, Phobos can be seen primarily in the panel of images above while the smaller Deimos is also seen in the second panel, captured by the Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS) camera on NASA's Odyssey Orbiter. Unlike the spherical moon that the Earth has, Phobos has a bit of an odd shape and revolves around Mars thrice a day.