By Stuart Murray
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59 Future exploration Video camera in tail Sensors in wings IN COMING YEARS, a NASA Mars orbiter will release a small plane to make a low-level flight over the southern highlands. Plans are in the Spectrometers in nose works for a group of European organizations and NASA to team up to launch the NetLander mission. In 2008, NASA’s Phoenix lander will settle down on the North Polar region. The phoenix is a mythical bird that rises from the ashes – in this case from the 1999 loss of Mars Polar Lander.
These antennae are for MARSIS (Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding) instruments, which can study the planet’s crust as deep as 5 km (3 miles). Extended antenna IN SEARCH OF WATER MARSIS radar waves penetrate the crust to analyse various types of material. The echoes that bounce back reveal information about the composition of the crust’s top level. A prime objective is to find liquid water deep inside. MARSIS antenna boom Mars crust Possible water reservoir 56 Dark blue areas show carbon dioxide ice Light blue areas show water ice OMEGA FINDS WATER ICE In March 2004, the Mars Express OMEGA spectrometer showed carbon dioxide ice, far left, and water ice, near right, at the south polar region.
The double impact craters were caused by later meteorite strikes. FORMING CLIFF GULLIES THUNDERING THROUGH A CANYON Under the Martian surface, near a crater or canyon wall, water might be present along with ice, rock, and soil in a “semi-permeable” layer. If a barrier plug of ice melted and turned to vapour, the water would rush downhill, creating gullies. In this painting, water gushes down from cliffs, breaking through ravines and filling a valley. This normally dry Martian terrain foams with water that has burst from underground reservoirs and is surging away.
Eyewitness Mars by Stuart Murray