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NASA team searching for landing sites on Mars in North East Iceland

By Staff

  • "take out the blue sky and you've got Mars" The caption to one of the photographs posted by the NASA HiRise team in Iceland. This photograph was taken in the Drekagil gorge in the Askja region in the northern central highlands. Photograph from the Instagram feed of HiRISE team.

Iceland was a training ground for the Apollo missions to the Moon. Now Iceland is serving as inspiration for NASA teams surveying Mars, searching for future landing sites on the red planet.

A stunning example of Mars on Earth
The NASA HiRISE team just returned from its fall group meeting which took place in Iceland. Judging by the Tumblr, Instagram and Twitter feeds of the HiRise project, the scientists found plenty the trip both inspiring and interesting. In a post titled “The Surreal Similarities of Iceland and Mars” the team assures us that “if you’re looking for a stunning example of Mars on Earth, this was the place.”



Now *this* the kind of landing spot the InSight is looking for.

A photo posted by Beautiful Mars (@uahirise) on


HiRISE, which stands for High Resolution Imaging Science Experiement, is photographing targeted swaths of Mars‘ surface in unprecedented detail, creating high resolution images of the surface of Mars, allowing scientists to distinguish 1-metre (3 ft) sized features on the surface and study the structure of the surface more clearly than ever before. Operates a camera at an orbit which varies in altitude from 200-400 km (125-250 miles). The photographs can help with the choice of future possible landing sites for Mars missions.

Read more: NASA astronauts to re-visit training grounds in Iceland's central highlands

You can easily imagine you‘re standing on Mars
Among the sites the team visited were geothermal areas in Southern Iceland, the central highlands and the lava fields and geothermal areas in the Mývatn lake region in North Eastern Iceland.

“Iceland is a geological wonder. Much of the volcanism in Iceland is recent, so when staring at a lava field or stunning rock formations, you can easily imagine you’re standing on Mars.”



How could this *not* be an excellent analog for Mars?

A photo posted by Beautiful Mars (@uahirise) on


It was not only the sights, but also the smells and sounds which the team found reminiscent of Mars. Visiting the geothermal area around Krafla in North Eastern Iceland, with its hot springs and lava fields, transported the team not only hundreds of millions of kilometres  into space but hundreds of millions of years into the past, when Mars was more active geologically:

“In one of the team field trips, with the smell of sulfur wafting about from geothermal springs and small clusters of bubbling mud, it was so easy to imagine this was Mars, hundreds of millions, maybe a billion or so years ago before it transformed into the massive desert we know today. Who knows, there may have been the sound of percolating hot water on Mars all those eons ago.”

Beautiful photographs from Mars and Iceland
The Instagram feed of the HiRise team contains a number of pretty stunning photographs from their trip to Iceland, as well as some equally stunning photographs of Mars. To the untrained eye it even pose somewhat of a challenge to distinguish one from the other.



A photo posted by Beautiful Mars (@uahirise) on


Iceland as the second best option
Most of us will never make it to another planet, but the HiRISE team assures us that for those who cannot participate personally in the exploration of Mars Iceland offers the second best option:

"And if you can, in the words of Arnold Schwarzenegger, “get your ass to Iceland.”"



Steam always manages to escape.

A photo posted by Beautiful Mars (@uahirise) on


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