Sunday, 8 March 2020

approaching pavonis mons by balloon (utopia planitia)

A few days ago, NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day featured this collapsed opening in a shield volcano (Peacock Mountain) in the Martian Tharsis region—originally discovered during the Mariner 9 mission in 1971 with the gentle rise and general topography near the planet’s equator making the feature a good candidate for the anchor of a space elevator, tethered to the captured asteroid of Deimos—and teased that the protected environment within the cavern could be a promising refuge for hold-out Martian life forms. Long before being imaged again by a Mars orbiter in 2011, it was the subject of the eponymous Flaming Lips’ song from their 2002 album Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots. The next phrase of the exploration programme, due to land February 2021 includes a rover called Perseverance equipped with a drill to extract and study core samples and an aerial drone, which could peer down into such places.