March 10th, 2010

NASA Mars Orbiter Speeds Past Data Milestone Scientific Computing

NASA’s newest Mars orbiter, completing its fourth year at the Red Planet next week, has just passed a data-volume milestone unimaginable a generation ago and still difficult to fathom: 100 terabits. That 100 trillion bits of information is more data than in 35 hours of uncompressed high-definition video. It’s also more than three times the amount of data from all other deep-space missions combined — not just the ones to Mars, but every mission that has flown past the orbit of Earth’s moon.
“What is most impressive about all these data is not the sheer quantity, but the quality of what they tell us about our neighbor planet,” said Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Project Scientist Rich Zurek, of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “The data from the orbiter’s six instruments have given us a much deeper understanding of the diversity of environments on Mars today and how they have changed over time.”
The spacecraft entered orbit around Mars on March 10, 2006, following an August 12, 2005, launch from Florida. It completed its primary science phase in 2008 and continues investigations of Mars’ surface, subsurface and atmosphere.