Happy Birthday, HiRISE 

UA space mission celebrates 10 years of snapping photos of Mars

It's been 10 years since the HiRISE camera aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter slipped into orbit around our neighboring planet and started sending snapshots back to the University of Arizona.

And over that decade, HiRISE—the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment—has sent back 264 terabits of data. Its images have shown how the surface of Mars changes over the course of a year. It has spotted dust devils on the Martian surface. It's helped map out landing spaces for different Mars landers, including the 2008 UA-led Phoenix mission to the arctic plains and the current mission with the Curiosity rover. It has snapped photos of those spacecraft descending to the Martian surface. It has taken pictures of Earth, other planets and comets. It has even helped the filmmakers behind the Oscar-winning movie The Martian understand the surface of Mars.

UA professor of planetary geology Alfred McEwen, the principal investigator behind the HiRISE mission, says images from the HiRISE mission have changed our understanding of Mars "in so many ways."

Not the least of those ways was the announcement by NASA last year that water appears to rise to the surface of Mars on a regular basis. "We're still struggling to understand it," McEwen says.

HiRISE could keep going for decades yet to come, although McEwen can't make any promises.

"The spacecraft has enough fuel on board to last another 20 years," McEwen says. "There are various things that have started to age. Electronic parts can fail and mechanical parts can wear out and so forth. There's no predicting."

Let's hope that in 2026, we're celebrating the 20th anniversary of HiRISE's accomplishments. And in the meantime, here are some of the best photos of the last 10 years.

For more photos and info about HiRISE, visit hirise.lpl.arizona.edu/

More by Jim Nintzel


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