On a future orbit, HiRISE might be able to capture color images of the crash. Photos of downed missions like this one can help researchers learn from the damage and avoid similar mistakes on future trips to Mars. And we’re getting better and better at taking them.
Finding evidence of the crash within weeks is a testament to the infrastructure already around Mars, and how much better equipped humans are to see happenings on the surface. The Soviet Union’s Mars 3 lander was the first to communicate from the planet’s surface, but only transmitted information for just shy of 15 seconds. It wasn’t until late in 2012 that space enthusiasts, pouring over five-year-old images from the HiRISE camera, identified what looked like the remains of Mars 3.
Now, when an object crashes on Mars, scientists can find it in days, not decades. Still, the best bet for finding something on Mars is making sure it works when it lands—and when it comes to the red planet, the best track record belongs to the red, white, and blue.