(Released 1 August 2002)
The lowland plains of Elysium Planitia contains a terrain that puzzles Mars scientists. The most intriguing and debatable landforms in the region are the plates and ridges seen through out most of this image. The plates can be up to 7 km diameter and appear to have been rafted apart. The plates can be "jigsaw fitted" back in place. Various investigators have attributed the morphology of the plains material located on the floor of the Elysium basin to a wide range of geologic processes/landforms. Some researchers think that the plains are composed of low-viscosity flood lavas, while others argue for a fluvial origin (dried remnants of hyperconcentrated floods or mudflows). The plains surface exhibits a "crusty" appearance that some researchers have attributed to crusted over flood lavas and pressure ridges. However, dried mudflows can exhibit the same type of texture. The debate continues. Numerous small dark haloed craters and a buried 1 km diameter crater can also be seen in the upper third of the image. Near the bottom of the image older cratered highlands and plains are visible as are the margins of the younger platy material.