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Avalanche! NASA's Mars Orbiter records a radical 1,640-foot Red Planet rockslide

By Jeff Spry
rockslide hero

Last week, NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) celebrated the 15th anniversary of its Aug. 12, 2005 launch, marking the milestone for one of the oldest spacecraft currently still investigating Mars with its striking high-definition surface imagery, atmospheric temperature recordings, and ground-penetrating radar scans meant to detect minerals.

To do its job with the utmost efficiency, MRO is equipped with three cameras: The Mars Color Imager (MARCI) using a fisheye lens that delivers a daily global view; The Context Camera (CTX) generating 19-mile-wide, black-and-white terrain shots; and the High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE), which obtains the most dramatic images. 

Here's a billowing new example below of the mission's amazing camerawork...


Snapping an earth-rumbling rockslide, Hi-RISE recently captured this incredible avalanche churning down a steep, 1,640-foot-tall Martian cliff on May 29, 2019. This remarkable image also reveals the different terrain layers existing at Mars' north pole during springtime. The geologic event was likely the result of rising temperatures and vaporized ice, which causes destabilized ice chucks to break loose and kick up dust.

As of this month, HiRISE has grabbed 6,882,204 images, producing 194 terabytes of data sent back from Mars since it first arrived back in 2006.

The stunning image above is a mere peek into the fantastic job being accomplished by the MRO's trio of specialized cameras, all managed and maintained by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California.

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