NASA's newest Mars spacecraft, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, is providing an unprecedented view of the surface of Mars.


Narration: We're getting brand new images from NASA's newest Mars spacecraft. The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has made its first observations from low orbit. One of its three cameras, the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment – or HiRise, is providing unprecedented views of the red planet.

Dr. Alfred McEwen: In each and every one of these images we are seeing features on Mars we've never seen before. HiRise can resolve features as small as a few feet across.

Here is the context image. There’s a lot more detail in this context image than you can see here. The HiRise image cuts a little area there that you see in yellow. We'll zoom in on that and then we'll show the overlay of a color coverage, which is just a narrow strip down the middle of the image.

We'll zoom in yet again and now we're approaching the full resolution where we're seeing features as small as a few feet across. This is a beautiful area. This is enhanced false color. This is not the way it would really look to us. There is in this area an overlying area that has orange and blue tint thick layer, but it's being stripped away by the wind. There is an active environment on Mars.

Beneath this, we see this light tone material. It's layered as we see here--layers that fill the crater. This is the clay rich material that's of such interest because it means the environment here was wet. We see a variety of small scale features. We see small channels as in water. We see the bright material is broken up into little plates.

So we're seeing revealed here a very ancient world. We know that this is very ancient because the over-lying area even is old and heavily cratered. But this was a very different world on Mars. This was a soaking wet world where we formed clays and small scale morphologies that we don't normally see on Mars. So there is a history here of climate change on Mars in the relatively recent past that we're going to have a lot of fun trying to decipher with the multiple instruments on MRO.

Narrator: This is only the beginning. In early November, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter will begin its primary science mission when Mars re-emerges from behind the sun.
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