One of the first of the Mars Global Surveyor science instruments -- a camera sporting the highest resolution capability ever flown to orbit another planet -- has been delivered to Lockheed Martin Astronautics Corporation's Denver facility for integration and testing aboard NASA's new Mars Global Surveyor orbiter.
The camera, built by Dr. Michael Malin of Malin Space Science Systems, Inc., San Diego, Calif., and the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif., is one of six science instruments that will be delivered to Lockheed Martin, NASA's industrial partner for the 1996 Mars Global Surveyor mission. The first of the Surveyor instruments to undergo installation on the spacecraft last summer was the ultra-stable oscillator, delivered to Lockheed Martin in July, and designed to be used as part of Surveyor's radio system for radio science investigations.
Mars Global Surveyor is a scaled-down version of the Mars Observer orbiter, designed to acquire global maps of the Martian surface, profile the planet's atmosphere and study the nature of the magnetic field. The spacecraft is scheduled to be launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla., aboard a McDonnell Douglas Delta 7925 launch vehicle on Nov. 5, 1996. After a 10-month cruise, the spacecraft will enter orbit around Mars on Sept. 11, 1997, and spend six months gradually lowering itself into a nearly circular mapping orbit 400 kilometers (250 miles) above the Martian surface.
The Mars Orbiter Camera will be able to obtain highresolution images 10 times better than any previous Mars orbiting camera, Malin said. Individual photographs of Mars will be sharp enough to show small geologic features such as boulders and sand dunes, and cover as much as 45 square kilometers (20 square miles). Tens of thousands of photographs are planned during the two-year mission.
"Each individual picture cell will cover less than 1.5 meters (5 feet), permitting the camera to distinguish surface features as small as 3-1/4 meters (10 feet) across," Malin said. "This is about 100 times better than most of the Viking pictures of Mars obtained in the mid-1970s."
The camera is a replica of the camera flown on the Mars Observer spacecraft, which was lost three days before entering orbit around Mars in August 1993. In addition to its highresolution imaging capability, the instrument also incorporates a low-resolution color system to create daily global maps very similar to those produced by Earth-orbiting weather satellites.
Designed specifically to meet the demanding weight, power and data rate restrictions of planetary spacecraft, as well as the harsh conditions of space, the camera weighs only 20.5 kilograms (45 pounds) and stands less than 88 centimeters (35 inches) tall and 40 centimeters (16 inches) in diameter. Cost of the camera for the Mars Global Surveyor mission is $3 million.
Mars Global Surveyor is the first of a decade-long program of robotic missions to Mars, managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory for the NASA Office of Space Science, Washington, D.C.
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