NASA released a Mars gravity map Monday that details the Red Planet's external gravitational forces and gives insight into its internal physical properties.
The information needed for the map was taken from three NASA spacecraft orbiting Mars – the Mars Global Surveyor, Mars Odyssey, and the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter – that are part of NASA's Deep Space Network, Digital Trends reported
The map was made by plotting the orbital fluctuations of the spacecraft as they circled Mars.
"Gravity maps allow us to see inside a planet, just as a doctor uses an X-ray to see inside a patient," Antonio Genova, the lead author of a paper on the gravity map research, said in a NASA statement
. The paper was published this month in the science journal Icarus
"The new gravity map will be helpful for future Mars exploration, because better knowledge of the planet's gravity anomalies helps mission controllers insert spacecraft more precisely into orbit about Mars. Furthermore, the improved resolution of our gravity map will help us understand the still-mysterious formation of specific regions of the planet," added Genova, who is with Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
NASA said that about 16 years of data from the spaceships were used in creating the map, and that it took two years of analysis and computer modeling to remove the planet's motion not caused by gravity.
"With this new map, we've been able to see gravity anomalies as small as 100 kilometers (about 62 miles) across, and we've determined the crustal thickness of Mars with a resolution of around 120 kilometers (75 miles)," Genova, who is based at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland."The better resolution of the new map helps interpret how the crust of the planet changed over Mars' history in many regions."
that NASA announced earlier this year that it's creating technology that could get a 100-kilogram spacecraft to Mars in three days, compared to general estimates of around six months.
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