On February 18, NASA hopes to touch another machine down on the surface of Mars. The Perseverance rover will explore the Jezero Crater, located in the planet’s northern hemisphere, searching for signs of ancient life. When NASA was searching for the perfect spot to land the rover, it used data from the ESA’s Mars Express orbiter, which has been circling the planet since 2004.
The ESA has now provided the public with a stunning video of the Jezero Crater, created by using images from the Mars Express.
The space agency said: “Mars Express has been imaging the Red Planet in three dimensions and in colour since 2004.
“The data it collects make it possible to create images of large areas of the martian surface – not only as colour mosaic images, but also as digital terrain models.
“These provide researchers with important information about the terrain and elevation of the land.
“Accurate topographical information is critical for ensuring a safe landing.
“The detailed data from Mars Express has been used to support the selection of numerous landing site candidates, including that of NASA’s Mars 2020 mission that will see Perseverance rover land in Jezero Crater this week.”
Jezero Crater has a diameter of 49 kilometres and is believed to have once been filled with water.
The ESA and other orbiters have already discovered limestones, volcanic minerals and other minerals such as iron oxide have also been discovered.
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NASA said: “The main instrument, the Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman & Luminescence for Organics & Chemicals (SHERLOC), will be mounted on the end of one of the Mars rover’s robotic arms.
SHERLOC will emit a quarter-sized ultraviolet laser at the ground.
Space scientists will then measure the way the light scatters when it hits the ground to work out what kind of minerals and chemical compounds it is made from.
The technique will also identify the unique spectral “fingerprint” certain alien organic material might give off.