Mars’ Radar –Mapping the Red Planet: “A World without Footprints”

             Pia15117-640

"No cities. No seas. No forests and no battlegrounds. No prairies. No nations. No histories and no legends. No memories. Just features, features and names. Argyre and Hellas and Isidis. Olympus and Alba and Pavonis. Schiaparelli and Antoniadi, Kasei and Nirgal. Beautiful double-rimmed Lowell. Names from one world projected onto maps of another."

Oliver Morton -Mapping Mars: Science, Imagination, and the Birth of a World.


Mars is a microcosm -a spiritual jumping off place in our exploration of the Universe. The white spaces -the unmapped, unexplored, unknown white spaces of the map of Planet Earth are no more. Our 21st Century explorers look to our Solar System and beyond for the  challenge of the unexplored, the unknown. 

"It is continuous, seamless and sealess. Its great mountains stand alone; there are no sweeping ranges, no Rockies or Alps or Andes. The rivers are long gone. There are no continents and there are no oceans, and thus there are no shores. Given patience,, provisions, and a pressure suit you could walk from any point on the planet to any other. No edges guide the eye or frame the scene. Nowhere says: Start Here," writes Oliver Morton.

In the image above, the upper panel is a radargram profile from the Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionospheric Sounding (MARSIS), showing data from the subsurface of Mars in the ice-rich north polar plateau of Mars. 

A ground-penetrating radar instrument that NASA helped develop for the European Space Agency's Mars Express orbiter has completed a five-month campaign of observing subsurface layering in the north polar ice cap of Mars. 

The campaign is a highlight of the orbiter's extended mission. The Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionospheric Sounding (MARSIS) made observations from altitudes as low as about 233 miles (375 kilometers) during several hundred passes over the pole. The MARSIS team is analyzing the data and plans to publish findings. 

Image credit: ESA/NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Rome/ASI/GSFC

"The Galaxy" in Your Inbox, Free, Daily