Google+ Mars Travel: July 2013

Kasei Valles and Echus Chasma

Most people know by now that Mars once contained a massive amount of water on its surface. It was during this period that Kasei Valles (shown below) was created by flood waters on Mars.

Kasei Valles
Image Credit: European Space Agency's Mars Express

One of the largest outflow channels on Mars, Kasei Valles measures 3000 km in length with a depth of 3 km, spanning a total of 1.55 million square kilometers.

Kasei Valles
Source: HiRISE
Within Kasei Valles lies the remains of Sharanov Crater, which had its southern rim collapsed by the floods that created the valley. This 100 km wide crater is depicted at top center in the below perspective view of Kasei Valles.

Sharanov Crater in Kasei Valles perspective view
Image Credit: European Space Agency's Mars Express

The floods that created Kasei Valles are thought to have emanated from Echus Chasma, which is imaged below. Echus Chasma spans 100km long and 10km wide and cuts into Lunae Planum, which is north of Valles Marineris.

Echus Chasma
Image Credit: European Space Agency's Mars Express
Echus Chasma was likely created when an impact or tectonic shift released water from a pressurized acquifer. Much like a dam breaking with enormous pressure, the force of the water ruptured the ground, leaving the incision we call Echus Chasma.

Echus Chasma
Image Credit: European Space Agency's Mars Express
The resulting release of water flooded the area directly north of Echus Chasma, thus creating Kasei Valles.

NASA's InSight Mission to Mars

In August 2012, around the same time that Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity landed in Gale Crater, NASA announced a new mission to Mars. This new mission is called InSight (Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport) and has a planned launch date of March 2016.

InSight will place a single lander on Mars in September 2016 with the capability of studying deep below the surface of the planet for a two year mission.

The lander will measure the seismology and internal temperature of planet Mars at varying levels. It will be able to determine whether Mars has a solid or liquid core and ascertain why Mars does not have tectonic plates similar to Earth. Understanding these facets of Mars as compared to Earth will provide insight into the formation of the other rocky planets in our inner solar system, including Earth, Venus, and Mercury.

An artist's rendition of proposed InSight Lander.
Source: NASA/JPL
InSight will be an international collaboration, with one of its four instruments coming from France's space agency, Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales (CNES) and another from the German Aerospace Center.