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Martian badlands

The Tyrrhena Terra badlands
Click for full image.

The photo to the right is a small section cropped from an image taken by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) on January 2, 2020. It shows the rough, cratered southern highlands dubbed Tyrrhena Terra that lie between the low Isidis Basin to the north and Mars’ deepest basin, Hellas, to the south.

The image was taken not because any specific scientific request, but because MRO was doing spectroscopy over this area and it made sense to also take a photograph. Comparing the photograph with the spectroscopic data allows scientists to better understand that spectroscopy.

The white cross in the map below shows the location of this image. The map itself covers latitudes from 40 degrees north to 55 degrees south.

Overview map

The cratered roughness of this region means that there is a lot of variety in the surface minerals, including the presence of what scientists called hydrated minerals, formed in the presence of water and therefore having the elements of water (hydrogen and oxygen) locked within their molecular structure. Data has so far found these hydrated materials on the inner rims of craters, which suggest they come from ancient terrains that were exposed by the impacts.

The numerous craters are also traps for sand, as can be seen by the dunes in the crater in the upper right.

To me, the roughness of this terrain is its most significant feature. Located in the equatorial regions, the data has so far found little obvious evidence of ice or water, making it less appealing as a site for settlement. The roughness is an even bigger strike against this territory. Even if we did eventually find ice here, getting to and from this region will discourage exploration. There are many other places on Mars where water is well documented, near the surface, and where landing and moving about is far less difficult.

So, let me predict the far future, when humans have built many colonies on Mars. While the big cities will be in the wet northern plains, preferably at spots closest to the equator, this region will remain a rural backwater, where few people live or work.

Conscious Choice cover

Now available in hardback and paperback as well as ebook!


From the press release: In this ground-breaking new history of early America, historian Robert Zimmerman not only exposes the lie behind The New York Times 1619 Project that falsely claims slavery is central to the history of the United States, he also provides profound lessons about the nature of human societies, lessons important for Americans today as well as for all future settlers on Mars and elsewhere in space.

Conscious Choice: The origins of slavery in America and why it matters today and for our future in outer space, is a riveting page-turning story that documents how slavery slowly became pervasive in the southern British colonies of North America, colonies founded by a people and culture that not only did not allow slavery but in every way were hostile to the practice.  
Conscious Choice does more however. In telling the tragic history of the Virginia colony and the rise of slavery there, Zimmerman lays out the proper path for creating healthy societies in places like the Moon and Mars.


“Zimmerman’s ground-breaking history provides every future generation the basic framework for establishing new societies on other worlds. We would be wise to heed what he says.” —Robert Zubrin, founder of founder of the Mars Society.


All editions are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all book vendors, with the ebook priced at $5.99 before discount. The ebook can also be purchased direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit, in which case you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.


Autographed printed copies are also available at discount directly from me (hardback $24.95; paperback $14.95; Shipping cost for either: $5.00). Just email me at zimmerman @ nasw dot org.


  • Edward_2

    Are there Orbiter images of “the face on Mars” site?

  • Calvin Dodge


    Yes. You can see it and other images at

  • Pat

    Edward, yes, the “face on Mars” site was checked first thing some years ago. There was nothing there but some hills. The “face” was a combination of using (by today’s standards) a relatively low resolution camera and suggestive shadow effects.

    All the brouhaha about the face is perhaps not so surprising. I remember seeing, back in the early 1970s, prior to the Viking probes being launched to Mars, a documentary given by none other than Carl Sagan, where he showed imagery taken by some of the earlier Mariner probes that seemed to show what looked like pyramids on Mars and other “suggestive” looking artifacts on the surface of that planet. Needless to say, after Viking you didn’t hear much about pyramids on Mars.

    Nothing would have made me happier than if some unambiguous evidence of intelligence on Mars had been found. But sadly, especially with the advanced high resolution cameras we have orbiting Mars now, nothing has been found.

  • wayne

    The Expanse
    Bobbie Arrives on Earth
    “Earth’s Gravity is Difficult on the Martian Physique…”

  • Dick Eagleson

    If Martian settlement works out, I can foresee, a few decades hence, the Martians sending heavy equipment out to Cydonia to turn the “not a face” into an actual face – Elon Musk’s.

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