NASA Mars Camera Snaps People’s Choice Photos

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NASA’s most powerful camera orbiting Mars beamed home a batch of photos of the red planet that highlighted areas hand-picked by the public for closer looks.

The new Mars photos, taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter’s HiRISE camera and released March 31, include eight images culled from nearly 1,000 suggestions sent in by the public.

“NASA’s Mars program is a prime example of what we call participatory exploration,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said in a statement. “To allow the public to aim a camera at a specific site on a distant world is an invaluable teaching tool that can help educate and inspire our youth to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math.”

Some of the new photographs include snapshots of martian landscapes strewn with boulders and rocks, while others reveal collapsed sections of Olympus Mons — the largest volcano in the solar system.

Martian ice sheets, dunes, mesas and other features highlight the other photos.

The pictures were taken as part of the HiWish project, which began calling for public suggestions in January and is organized by a science team running the HiRISE camera at the University of Arizona in Tucson.

Since arriving at Mars in 2006, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has taken more than 13,000 photos with the HiRISE camera, capturing just 1 percent of the planet’s surface.