Upper layers of frozen carbon dioxide have melted to reveal layers of frozen water-ice at the south pole of Mars in this image taken by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, via NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona.
A new Mars mission is finally underway. On December 20, 2020, the United States government’s two houses of Congress agreed on NASA’s final budget for fiscal year 2021, which includes plans for a Martian ice-mapping satellite currently targeting a 2026 launch. The budget request for the mission, formally called the Mars Ice Mapper, is reported to have surprised planetary scientists when it was submitted by the Trump administration in February. Those initial documents gave only scarce details, making it hard to understand the mission. This is why announcements made at a November 30 virtual Planetary Science Advisory Committee meeting provided exciting insight on the satellite, and on what the mission aims to accomplish for NASA, commercial space companies, and humanity.
According to TheSpaceReview.com, the mission is a precursor to support later human missions to Mars.
At the November 30 meeting, NASA said the Mars Ice Mapper will serve a host of purposes. In particular, it will use familiar technology to make new discoveries, creating the best geographic ...