Skip to main content

Watch a flight over the stunning icy Korolev Crater on Mars

Flight over Korolev Crater on Mars

If you’ve ever wanted to take a trip to Mars to view the local sights, you’ll have to wait a while until the transport and infrastructure is ready for humans to visit another planet. But for now, the European Space Agency (ESA) is offering the next best thing: A video fly-over of one of Mars’ most famous landmarks, the enormous and icy Korolev Crater.

The Korolev crater is 50 miles across and is located in the northern part of Mars. At the northern pole is an ice cap made of water ice, and around this cap is an area of dunes in which the crater is located.

The crater is unusual as it is not filled with snow but rather water ice, which more than one mile thick even in the summer months. The ice is preserved due to the fact that the floor of the crater is more than a mile deep below the surface of the planet, forming a natural cold trap in which cold air sinks to the bottom of the crater and blankets the ice, keeping it cold and in its frozen form.

Perspective view of Korolev crater ESA/DLR/FU Berlin

The video shows a zooming in from the planet’s surface, toward its northern hemisphere, before then focusing in on the crater. It then switches to a fly-over style view of the crater which lets you appreciate the eery isolation of the dramatic landscape. It was created from real images of the planet’s surface captured by a special high-resolution camera about the European Space Agency’s orbiting spacecraft, Mars Express.

“This movie was created using an image mosaic made from single orbit observations from the High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) on Mars Express, which was first published in December 2018,” ESA explained on its website. “The mosaic combines data from the HRSC nadir and color channels; the nadir channel is aligned perpendicular to the surface of Mars, as if looking straight down at the surface. The mosaic image was then combined with topography information from the stereo channels of HRSC to generate a three-dimensional landscape, which was then recorded from different perspectives, as with a movie camera, to render the flight shown in the video.”

Editors' Recommendations

Georgina Torbet
Georgina is the Digital Trends space writer, covering human space exploration, planetary science, and cosmology. She…
How much fuel is left in this 20-year-old Mars orbiter?
NASA’s 2001 Mars Odyssey orbiter is depicted in this illustration. The mission team spent most of 2021 assessing how much propellant is left on the orbiter, concluding it has enough to stay active through at least 2025.

Designing, building, and launching a spacecraft is hugely expensive. That's why NASA missions to Mars are designed with the hope that they'll last as long as possible -- like the famous Opportunity rover which was supposed to last for 90 days and managed to keep going for 15 years. The longer a mission can keep running, the more data it can collect, and the more we can learn from it.

That's true for the orbiters which travel around Mars as well as the rovers which explore its surface, like the Mars Odyssey spacecraft which was launched in 2001 and has been in orbit around Mars for more than 20 years. But the orbiter can't keep going forever as it will eventually run out of fuel, so figuring out exactly how much fuel is left is important -- but it also turned out to be more complicated than the NASA engineers were expecting.

Read more
See the Ingenuity helicopter’s stunning image of a Martian sunset
NASA's Ingenuity Mars Helicopter acquired this image using its high-resolution color camera. This camera is mounted in the helicopter's fuselage and pointed approximately 22 degrees below the horizon. This image was acquired on Feb. 22, 2023 (Sol 714 of the Perseverance rover mission).

The tiny helicopter Ingenuity is continuing to explore Mars, gearing up for its 47th flight. That's a pretty stunning achievement, considering it was originally designed to perform just five flights and has had to deal with changing seasonal conditions including colder temperatures and dropping atmospheric pressure.

Despite the inhospitable environment, the helicopter continues to operate and recently made its longest flight in almost a year. And now, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory has shared an image taken by Ingenuity during its 45th flight which shows an otherworldly sunset, as the sun slinks over the Martian horizon.

Read more
Rovers could explore lava tubes on Mars or the moon using breadcrumbs
In this artist's impression of the breadcrumb scenario, autonomous rovers can be seen exploring a lava tube after being deployed by a mother rover that remains at the entrance to maintain contact with an orbiter or a blimp.

When looking for safe places for astronauts to stay when they venture away from Earth to new moons and planets, one strong contender is that they should stay underground. Being underground means more protection from harmful space radiation and less exposure to weather events, and nature already creates environments that could be ideal bases in the form of lava tubes. Created when molten lava flows under the surface, lava tubes are thought to exist on both Mars and the moon, providing potential shelter for human explorers.

Now, new research from engineers at the University of Arizona proposes a method for using robots to scout out lava tubes for use as habitats ahead of the arrival of human astronauts. "Lava tubes and caves would make perfect habitats for astronauts because you don't have to build a structure; you are shielded from harmful cosmic radiation, so all you need to do is make it pretty and cozy," said lead author of the research, Wolfgang Fink, in a statement.

Read more