The history of human exploration, particularly in the age of sail, can be defined by one curious tendency. Often the strongest motivation for launching a new expedition, was to find out just what happened to the last expedition. And the one before that. Somehow, the appeal just never fades.
Likewise, even the casual science fiction fan can attest that one of the genre’s most common devices is that of the lost spaceship, partially buried in the sands of an alien planet. (Friendly word of warning here, if the planet is Ceti Alpha V, just keep on going.)
Combine the two tendencies, and what you get is one of the more interesting stories coming out of a busy week in space. A crowdsourced effort centered in Russia, and using imagery from the HiRISE camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has found compelling evidence of the remains of the Soviet Union’s partially failed Mars 3 lander, which stopped transmitting 14.5 seconds after conducting humanity’s first ever soft landing on the Red Planet in 1971. Although the finding has not been confirmed, the presence of a brightly colored object which closely matches a weathered descent parachute slowly shifting in the Martian wind would seem to build a very strong case. (It wouldn’t hurt to send somebody to check it out though) The full story can be found on the JPL website, along with a good description of the painstaking work performed by Vitali Erogov, leader of the internet based search team.