Feb 19, 2021
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At the edge of a martian crater

The photo below shows the southeastern wall of a small crater located a few hundred kilometers north of the giant plain of Hellas, a lowland lowland of impact origin on the planet Mars. The dimensions of the crater itself reach about 12 km in diameter, this image shows an area of ​​5 by 10 km.

The CaSSIS camera installed on board the Trace Gas Orbiter of the Russian-European mission ExoMars-2016 took this image on October 19, 2020. The CaSSIS color filters allow you to see a wide variety of colors. This diversity is due to the presence of different minerals that reflect light differently at different wavelengths.

Light deposits indicate bedrock outcrops, which may contain ancient clay minerals formed in the presence of water. In addition, wind-blown sand deposits are also clearly visible here, creating “ripples” at the bottom of the crater. Their characteristic reddish brown hue indicates the presence of iron oxides.

The ExoMars project is a joint project of the Roscosmos State Corporation and the European Space Agency, which is being implemented in two stages. The first mission was launched into space in 2016. It included two spacecraft: Trace Gas Orbiter for observing the atmosphere and the surface of the planet has been in working orbit near Mars since spring 2018 and the second – the Schiaparelli lander for testing landing technologies, its mission ended abnormally.

The scientific objectives of the Trace Gas Orbiter mission are registration of small components of the Martian atmosphere, including methane, mapping the abundance of water in the upper soil layer with a high spatial resolution of the order of tens of kilometers, and stereoscopic survey of the surface. The apparatus is equipped with two instruments created in Russia: the ACS spectrometric complex (ACS – Atmospheric Chemistry Suit, Complex for studying atmospheric chemistry) and the FREND high-resolution neutron telescope (FREND, Fine-Resolution Epithermal Neutron Detector).

The second phase of the project, which is scheduled to launch next year, provides for the delivery to the surface of Mars of the Russian landing platform Kazachok with the European rover Rosalind Franklin on board. The launch will be carried out using the Proton-M launch vehicle and the Briz-M upper stage from the Baikonur cosmodrome.

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