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New map offers insights into Mars

NASA has released new information about Mars that could aid future exploration missions to the planet.

A new map of Mars' gravity is the most detailed to date and provides a revealing glimpse into the Red Planet's hidden interior, NASA said on its website Tuesday.

Gravity maps essentially allow scientists to see inside a planet, which is especially relevant for Mars seeing as some of its regional formations still remain unknown to man.

"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," the post said, citing information from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

A map of Martian gravity looking down on the North Pole (center). White and red are areas of higher gravity; blue indicates areas of lower gravity
NASA/MIT/UMBC-CRESST/GSFC
A map of Martian gravity looking down on the North Pole (center). White and red are areas of higher gravity; blue indicates areas of lower gravity

Using years of data collected by three spacecrafts in orbit around the Red Planet, the map's improved resolution offered NASA a number of new revelations.

By analyzing tides in the Martian crust and mantle, NASA was able to confirm the planet has a liquid outer core of molten rock.

"The team has also determined that when one hemisphere experiences winter, approximately 3 to 4 trillion tons of carbon dioxide freezes out of the atmosphere onto the northern and southern polar caps, respectively. This is about 12 to 16 percent of the mass of the entire Martian atmosphere."

Earlier this year, the U.S. space agency revealed it was working on technology that could see a 100-kilogram spacecraft travel to Mars in three days, compared to general estimates for six months.

The complex process involves constructing a laser propulsion system based on electromagnetic acceleration, scientist Dr. Philip Lubin explained in a February report.

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