Following the Water

CRISM is one of six scientific instruments planned for the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter that NASA will send to the Red Planet in 2005. A visible-infrared hyperspectral mapper, CRISM will seek evidence of aqueous and hydrothermal deposits and map the geology, composition and stratigraphy of surface features.

CRISM will also characterize seasonal variations in dust and ice aerosols and water content of surface materials, supplementing climatologic data gathered by other Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter instruments.

Searching Dust for Fingerprints

When the orbiter flies over a given area, CRISM's scanning mechanism will allow the instrument's visible and infrared spectrometers to track a region on the dusty Martian surface and map it at scales as small as 18 meters (60 feet) across, from an altitude of 300 kilometers (186 miles). CRISM will use the spectrum of reflected sunlight to determine the mineralogy of the surface ­ perhaps spotting the mineral fingerprints water may have left behind.

A Talented Team

The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) leads the effort to design and build the CRISM instrument. It's not APL's first trip to Mars: the Lab also developed ultrastable oscillators (super-precise timekeeping devices) for three Mars spacecraft, including Mars Global Surveyor, which has mapped atmospheric structure and circulation patterns on Mars for the past four years.

CRISM's Science Team draws from the top ranks of planetary imaging experts, spectral investigators, geologists and atmospheric scientists. Its members have taken part in every Mars imaging and spectral investigation since the Viking mission.

CRISM's comprehensive Education and Public Outreach effort will engage students and teachers directly in Mars exploration.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory manages the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter mission.

Click here to learn about the hunt for water on Mars.

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