MEDIA RELATIONS OFFICE
JET PROPULSION LABORATORY
CALIFORNIA INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY
NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION
PASADENA, CALIFORNIA 91109. TELEPHONE (818) 354-5011
Contact: Mary Hardin
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 22, 2000
PUBLIC INVITED TO BROWSE 20,000 NEW ADDITIONS TO MARS PHOTO
More than 20,000 images of the planet Mars taken by NASA's
Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft are now available in a web-based
photo album -- the single largest one-time release of images for
any planet in the history of solar system exploration.
The 'picture postcard' scenes in the new images reveal the
Red Planet, often said to be the most Earth-like planet, as an
alien, bizarre and puzzling world.
"These are exciting times for Mars scientists and this
release of images is in my opinion something unprecedented in the
Mars science business," said Dr. Ken Edgett, staff scientist at
Malin Space Science Systems, San Diego, CA. "People everywhere
with Internet access will be able to take their own personal
journey of exploration and discover Mars via these pictures. They
can experience them the same way that Mars Global Surveyor
scientists do -- one at a time, no captions or explanations, just
'Here it is. What does it show me?'"
The archive of images now covers one Mars year (687 Earth
days), beginning in September 1997 with pictures taken during the
aerobraking phase and extending through August 1999 when Global
Surveyor was well into its mapping mission. Many of the pictures
have such high resolution that objects on the surface the size of
a school bus can be seen.
According to the imaging team, placing these images within
NASA's Planetary Data System for archiving is an important step
in the Mars Global Surveyor mission that permits scientists and
the public to examine the original data and make discoveries "for
"Putting these data into perspective is very difficult. We
have focused on 'themes.' Layers on the Martian surface are the
biggest 'theme' or 'finding' of the imaging investigation so far.
To a geologist, layers record history and they are the most
geologically important, profound thing we have seen," said Dr.
Michael Malin, principal investigator for the camera system at
Malin Space Science Systems. "We see layers in the walls of
canyons, craters, and troughs. We see layers in the both the
north and south polar regions. We see them in the craters on top
of volcanoes, we see them in pits at the bottoms of impact
craters, we see them virtually everywhere that some process has
exposed the subsurface so that we can see it from above."
"Seeing Mars up close through the narrow angle camera has
been a humbling experience. We often find surfaces for which
there are no obvious analogs on Earth, like certain ridges that
look like dunes. Our terrestrial geologic experience seems, at
times, to fail us," Edgett said. "Perhaps it is because water is
the dominant force of erosion on Earth, even in the driest desert
regions. But on Mars that force of change may have been something
else, like wind. The ridges seen in places like the Valles
Marineris floors are strange. They aren't dunes because they
occur too close together, their crests are too sharp, their
slopes too symmetrical. They often appear to be a specific layer
of material that has undergone erosion -- we just wish we knew
what processes are involved that cause this kind of erosion."
The camera system uses a "push-broom" technique that
systematically builds up pictures of the surface directly below
one line at a time as the spacecraft orbits Mars. The wide-angle
lens provides a complete low-resolution global map of the planet
every day showing surface features and clouds at a resolution of
about 7.5 kilometers (4.6 miles). The narrow-angle telescope
takes close-up pictures of small areas with a resolution of about
1.5 meters (about 5 feet). Because of the extremely high data
volume of the high-resolution images, controllers cannot use this
mode continuously. Instead, they painstakingly plan which areas
they want to target.
The archive of images can be found at:
A subset of the images can be seen at
Mars Global Surveyor was launched on November 7, 1996 and
arrived at Mars on September 12, 1997. The spacecraft has made
more than 5,000 orbits of Mars and has been systematically
mapping the Red Planet since March 1999.
Mars Global Surveyor is managed by the Jet Propulsion
Laboratory for NASA's Office of Space Science, Washington, DC.
The camera system was built and is operated by Malin Space
Science Systems, San Diego, CA. JPL's industrial partner is
Lockheed Martin Astronautics, Denver, CO, which developed and
operates the spacecraft. JPL is a division of the California
Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA.