NASA Needed 15 Years to Take This Photo of Mars, And All It Found Is a Collection of Rocks

After it arrived in orbit around Mars back in 2006, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) completely changed the way we look at the neighboring planet. For the first time in history, humans now had an incredible vantage point from where to closely  survery the reddish surface of the planet, hoping and dreaming of colonizing it.
Photo of a portion of the Valles Marineris canyon 11 photos
Photo: NASA/JPL/UArizona
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Because of this, and on account of it being the most capable such device now surveying Mars, MRO is also extremely busy. The orbiter’s HiRISE camera has sent back close to 70,000 images taken from about 250 km (165 miles) high, and they keep on coming, even if, at times, the organizations who need photos of the Martian surface have to wait one and a half decades to get them.

That’s pretty much what happened to the photo we have here. It shows a small part of the massive Valles Marineris canyon that spreads for 4,000 miles (2,500 km) along the planet’s equator, in the usual shades of red we associate with Mars.

The image was received here on Earth earlier this summer, but it was requested by an unnamed part all the way back in 2006, the year the MRO reached its orbit. The huge delay happened, said NASA and the University of Arizona, who run MRO’s HiRISE, because of the “many competing targets in the Valles Marineris canyon system.”

Now that it’s here, the image reveals what appears to be the remnants of a massive landslide that carried rocks from the walls of the canyon to its floor. “Lower-resolution infrared data had previously revealed an unusual concentration of the igneous mineral orthopyroxene at this location,” say the scientists.

Probably not exactly something one would expect to be treated with after 15 years of waiting, but an important piece nonetheless in the puzzle that will help us better understand this planet.
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Editor's note: Gallery shows the proposed Nuwa Martian city in Valles Marineris.

About the author: Daniel Patrascu
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Daniel loves writing (or so he claims), and he uses this skill to offer readers a "behind the scenes" look at the automotive industry. He also enjoys talking about space exploration and robots, because in his view the only way forward for humanity is away from this planet, in metal bodies.
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