Thursday, February 15, 2007

An hard but decisive hike towards Mars

HRSC, the camera onboard Mars Express, has accomplished not along ago 3 years.
From all the amazing images released so far, latest news announced what for me sounded like a dream come true.
Hiking maps...from Mars.
It will take some time untill we have the chance to glance the first human with one of these in his hands, walking a windy, dusty, rusty, martian landscape, but for now, this has been a great step towards the realisation of that dream.
Professor Gerhard Neukum, HRSC Principal Investigator, from the Freie Universit├Ąt Berlin, gave some of it’s precious time to elucidate some spacEurope doubts.

One of those doubts was about how much time was spent to make this Iani Chaos maps, according to Prof. Neukum:

-It was an effort of the HRSC Science and Experiment Team to develop the tools and to produce exemplary maps. All together the efforts took several years.

...And why did the choice fell over this region of Mars?

-Because it is scientifically interesting (releases of water).
It is also one of the best large-area datasets in the course of the HRSC Mars surface mapping effort.

It is planned to do the same with others or will it have to wait for further discussion?

-It is planned but depends on a firm program and additional money.

What might be the strongest arguments to get more funds to proceed with this gigantic work?

-The international Mars exploration as such.

By doing this work can we infer that this is part of a primary, but planned, step towards human exploration?

-It will be useful and necessary for human exploration.

So, can we imagine a future manned mission walking on Mars using this maps?

-Possibly.

Prof Neukum also informed spacEurope that
there will be no maps generated from HRSC data below 1:50'000, since ground resolution of the data does not allow for more detailed maps.

Hikers...maps like the ones used on Earth’s walks (1:25000) are out of question for now...

What might be their applications in the future? And in terms of science?

What can be whitdrawn from your work?

-The maps are applicable for science, exploration and mission planning.
Maps of this kind are a useful tool in connection with investigations of the Geology of Mars.

Especially since they give the 3D/height informations.

HRSC accomplished recently its third anniversary.
What can we wait from future observations?

-We can expect new interesting things, while covering more and more of the Martian surface.
Right now we covered 35 percent of the Martian surface for resolutions between 10m and 20m per pixel. We are just getting a mission extension for 2008 and 2009. By the end of this extension we will be at more than 60 percent coverage of the surface of Mars at 10m to 20m resolution in stereo and color.
Further extensions are necessary to get close to 100% coverage at that resolution and that is one of the primary goals of the mission.



We’ll keep on dreaming, we’ll keep on hiking.
Mars is getting closer than ever.


A special thanks to Dirk Benkert for its precious help on making this Q’n’A possible.

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