Perseverance rover landed successfully on Mars

After nearly seven months of travel, NASA’s Perseverance rover has successfully touched down on Mars on February 18, 2021. The mission’s goals are to search for evidence of past life and habitable environments in Jezero crater and collect and store samples that, for the first time in history, could be returned to Earth by a future mission.

Mars 2020 landing ellipse inside Jezero crater. (Credit: USGS).

To safely land on the rugged Martian landscape, the spacecraft used a new technology called “Terrain Relative Navigation.” As it descended through the planet’s atmosphere, the spacecraft used its onboard maps to know exactly where it is and to avoid hazards as it lands on the planet’s surface. For the navigation to work, the spacecraft needs the best possible maps of the landing site and surrounding terrain. And now safely landed, these base maps will continue to serve for mission operations on Earth as scientists plot where the rover will explore once it’s on the ground. The new maps are based on images collected by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter’s Context Camera and the High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera and are available online here. Images taken by Mars Express’s High-Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) and the HRSC Team created elevation models were also critical in validating these maps.

Also released, and to help with ground operations, is a new geologic map of Jezero crater and Nili Planum, an ancient and cratered highlands. The geologic map covers the landing site and surrounding terrain that the rover will encounter on its travels during the course of its mission. An online viewer for this geologic map has also been made available.

Jezero Crater on Mars Geologic Map Detail
Geologic Map of Jezero crater on Mars (Sun and Stack, 2020;

New Paper: Knowledge Inventory of Foundational Data Products in Planetary Science

A new paper by authors J. Laura and R. Beyer was just released to help solidify Planetary Spatial Data Infrastructure (PSDI) terms like foundational and framework and provides a thorough knowledge inventory of available planetary data products. see:

As defined by the paper, rigorously accurate foundational products are critical for cartographers when creating derived maps. And by building these these derived maps, for example a elevation-based derived shaded reliefs with contours, cartographers will be creating framework products, thus adding to the overall knowledge inventory.

Is every foundational data product listed in the paper? There are bound to be missing products and soon the paper will become outdated, but it is a great place for researchers and the public to locate existing planetary data. Quote: “We also note that this manuscript, at least at the time of submission and surely by the time of publication, will be out of date. To this end, we are working to turn the data collected and organized within this peer-reviewed manuscript into a living, searchable web-based resource. “

Once this live site is defined by the authors, we will link to it from this page.


Some of the key components of any Planetary Spatial Data Infrastructure (PDSI) are the data products that end-users wish to discover, access, and interrogate. One precursor to the implementation of a PSDI is a knowledge inventory that catalogs what products are available, from which data producers, and at what initially understood data qualities. We present a knowledge inventory of foundational PSDI data products: geodetic coordinate reference frames, elevation or topography, and orthoimages or orthomosaics. Additionally, we catalog the available gravity models that serve as critical data for the assessment of spatial location, spatial accuracy, and ultimately spatial efficacy. We strengthen our previously published definitions of foundational data products to assist in solidifying a common vocabulary that will improve communication about these essential data products.