Getting to the Bottom of Life on Mars

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Researchers at Freie Universität Berlin are involved in developing an interactive map of Mars

No 030/2021 from Feb 19, 2021

People who are interested in discovering the mysteries of the galaxy can now see what Mars looks like up close thanks to an interactive map developed by researchers from the Planetary Sciences and Remote Sensing group at Freie Universität Berlin. The map depicts the landing site of NASA’s Perseverance rover that reached the planet on Thursday evening after 202 days in space. It was created using orbital imagery, terrain data, and 3D panoramic views of Jezero Crater and the surrounding area. The map is accessible online at https://maps.planet.fu-berlin.d­e/jezero/. Researchers want to use this mission to Mars to learn more about the history and mineralogy of Jezero and its delta, as it is believed that the crater was once flooded with water. The findings from this mission could result in new discoveries about Mars’ past climate conditions and signs of ancient life on its surface.

The Mars Express spacecraft has been orbiting the red planet since December 2003. It captures important image data on Mars’ morphology and topography, as well as its volcanic, fluviatile, and glacial past, which will allow scientists to deduce further information about its climate history.

Researchers have spent the last few years merging image data to create a global map. The map sheets of Mars generated by Freie Universität Berlin and the German Aerospace Center (DLR) in Berlin-Adlershof are now to be used as a standard reference system for registering data from other cameras capturing images of Mars, which will then be made available to researchers.

The images were taken using a High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC), which was developed in collaboration with industrial partners at the DLR under the leadership of the physicist Professor Gerhard Neukum, who died in 2014. The geologist Professor Ralf Jaumann from Freie Universität Berlin headed the HRSC camera experiment from July 2013 to January 2021. His successor is planetologist Dr. Thomas Roatsch (DLR), who took the position in February 2021.