NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology

Peter Smith of the University of Arizona, Tuscon, has been named principal investigator for the imaging system for the Mars Environmental Survey (MESUR) Pathfinder lander, NASA announced today.

MESUR Pathfinder is a small mission that NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory proposes to launch to Mars in 1996 which will place a lander and rover on the surface of Mars in 1997. Once on the surface, the camera will obtain a 360-degree panoramic image of the landing site and also will acquire images of specific areas at intervals during the year-long mission.

Martin Marietta Astronautics Group, Denver, Colo., was named as the prime instrument contractor. The Max Planck Institute for Aeronomy, Lindau, Germany, will provide the image detector and its supporting electronics.

Smith's proposal for an imaging system for the MESUR Pathfinder lander was submitted earlier this year in response to a NASA announcement of opportunity for the mission. Dr. Wesley Huntress, NASA associate administrator for the Office of Space Science, Washington, D.C. was the selecting official.

The camera is a side-by-side charged-coupled device (CCD) stereo imager which sits on top of a "jack-in-the-box" mast that pops up one meter above the lander. The camera has a 12-position color filter wheel and is fully controllable in both elevation and side-to-side (azimuth) motion. The optics do not require active focusing.

The field of view for each eye is 14.4 degrees square and has a resolution of six-tenths of a millimeter near the lander.

The filter wheel contains eight color filters optimized for Mars geology, three color filters for atmospheric water vapor and dust measurements and one broadband filter for stereo imaging with both eyes.

The camera will be used for science experiments, including filter-wheel spectral mapping of the landing site to determine its composition and to identify rocks which may be designated as targets for further investigation. Spectral mapping also will study weathering processes and products in the dust, soil and rocks of Mars.

Images also will be taken to study phenomena which occur over time, such as frost, dune formation and seasonal changes.

NASA also announced the selection of Dr. Jens Martin Knudsen of the University of Copenhagen as a co-investigator, to provide a magnetic properties investigation for the mission in conjunction with Smith's team. He will provide five magnets of varying strengths to capture wind-blown magnetic dust particles.

Other co-investigators for the imaging experiment are Drs. Robert Singer, Martin Tomasko, Lyn Doose and Daniel Britt, all of the University of Arizona, Tuscon; Dr. Larry Soderblom, U.S. Geological Survey, Flagstaff, Ariz., and Dr. H. Uwe Keller, Max Planck Institute for Aeronomy.

The Arizona team proposed to develop and deliver camera hardware and one flight instrument, accompanied by operational and data compression software. The effort, estimated at $5 million in fiscal year 1992 dollars, will culminate with the delivery of the flight imaging system in late 1995.

The MESUR Pathfinder will use a small robotic rover to explore the region within about 50 meters of the landing site. In contrast to the three-color imaging provided by the two Viking landers in the late 1970s, the MESUR Pathfinder lander imaging system will be capable of imaging in a variety of spectral bands to determine mineral content within view of the lander.

The spectral channels are particularly sensitive to iron and pyroxene minerals -- dark, silicon-based, crystal-like rocks.

The primary mission is for one month on the surface of Mars, with a goal of one year of extended mission.

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory will manage the MESUR Pathfinder mission for NASA's Office of Space Science.

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