The latest pictures released by the National Aeronautics Space Agency (NASA) show how an icy Mars crater has changed over a period of six Martian years. The images released by NASA were captured by the HiRISE camera which is onboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). An impact crater on the north polar cap can be seen in the images, which contain an icy deposit on the crater floor.
NMRO has been observing Mars for 6 Martian Years (MY), each of which lasts for 687 Earth days. "Shown here is an impact crater on the north polar ice cap, which contains an icy deposit on the crater floor. These inter-crater ice deposits shrink and expand or change shape or surface texture from year to year," said Alfred McEwen, principal investigator for HiRISE. In this animation, we can see the appearance of this crater fill in Martian Year February 2008, August 2010, July 2012, February 2016, January 2018, and December 2019.
The University of Arizona, Tucson, operates HiRISE, which was built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., Boulder, Colorado. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, California, manages the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Project for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. As NASA is planning to launch a manned mission in the future it makes more interesting for scientists to dig deeper.
NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) has worked more than double its planned mission life since launch in 2005. According to NASA's official web page, the agency is planning to keep using it past the mid-2020s. Increased reliance on a star tracker, and less on aging gyroscopes, is one way the mission is adapting to extend its longevity. Another step is wringing a more useful life from batteries. The mission's extended service provides data relay from assets on Mars' surface and observations with its science instruments, despite some degradation in capabilities.