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Space Enthusiasts Find Missing ’71 Soviet Lander Using Mars Orbiter Images



It turns out that the sharing of images taken by orbiters and rovers in space may have more of a purpose than just being cool to look at. According to a NASA press release published last Thursday, a group of amateur Russian space enthusiasts may have found a missing soviet Mars lander using nothing more than images from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

The five-year-old image above (click here for a high-res version) shows what the amateurs and NASA both believe to be the remnants of the Soviet lander Mars 3, which lost contact with the Russians fourteen seconds after a successful landing on December 2, 1971.

A drawing of the Mars 3 spacecraft courtesy of NASA.
A drawing of the Mars 3 spacecraft courtesy of NASA.

The group responsible for the find is an online community that follows the goings on of the Mars Rover Curiosity. Member of that community Vitali Egorov led an effort to discover the Mars 3 using images from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, and models of what the lander’s heat shield, terminal retrorocket and parachutes might look like on the Reconnaissance Orbiter’s camera.

The images still have to be verified, but experts say that the artifacts pointed out by Egorov and his peers are “a remarkable match” to what they would expect from the Mars 3. For Egorov, the find is simply confirmation of a belief that “Mars exploration today is available to practically anyone.”

(via The Verge)