Wonderful Engineering

Mars Orbiter Finds Star Trek Logo On Mars

Images taken from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) show a sand dune that appears to be similar to the famous Star Trek logo. Researchers from Arizona University have stated that it is only a coincidence. For those who are unaware, Arizona University is part of the MROs ground team. Nonetheless, Star Wars actor William Shatner who played Captain Kirk in the famous series is talking about it!

The University of Arizona that manages the MRO HiRISE (High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment) camera said, ‘Enterprising viewers will make the discovery that these features look conspicuously like a famous logo. You’d be right, but it’s only a coincidence.’

The unusually shaped dune is situated in Hellas Planitia, the red planet’s Southern Hemisphere. The University of Arizona has explained that the combination of lave and formed the chevron shape that is so similar to the Star Trek logo. As it happens, such a formation is not unusual for the scientists are carrying out observation of Mars.

After observing for Mars for years, the scientists have come up with a solid theory about how these amazing shapes are formed. They believe that long ago there were crescent-shaped dunes that would shift across the plain. Moving forward, at some point, an eruption from below the surface of Mars took place, and this led to lava flowing over the plain and surrounded the dunes. It did not, however, rise over them. The lava hardened eventually, and the dunes blew away while leaving their imprints behind. The explained phenomenon is also called ‘dunecasts’.

The Mars Orbiter has been working since 2005 and has actually been in service for double the time period for which it was planned. NASA has plans of using the Orbiter even after 2025. This implies that certain aspects of the mission need to be changed to make sure that the equipment is able to carry out its work.

The research team has plans of transferring the focus from the Orbiter’s old gyroscope to its star tracker. The team is also looking into ways of ‘wringing’ useful life from the batteries. MRO Project Manager Dan Johnston of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, said, ‘We know we’re a critical element for the Mars Program to support other missions for the long haul, so we’re finding ways to extend the spacecraft’s life. In flight operations, our emphasis is on minimizing risk to the spacecraft while carrying out an ambitious scientific and programmatic plan.’