This figure compares five representative views of the Mars Polar Lander primary ellipse near 76°S, 195°W, with a similar-sized view of the U.S. capital for scale. Each box is approximately 1.2 km (0.75 mi) on a side. The brightness variations from one box to another among the Mars images reflects different amounts of frost cover, and possibly the differing compositions of frost (i.e., carbon dioxide vs. water ice). The brightness also depends upon surface texture both above and below the scale of these images (about 5.5 meters--18 feet--per pixel). These pictures show the range of surface texture and morphology that is found within the landing ellipse. Mounds and valleys that range from a few meters to as much as one hundred meters (328 ft) across--with relief of a few meters--dominate the landing site. All of the frost seen here is expected to be gone by the time the Mars Polar Lander arrives in December 1999. The Mars images are illuminated from the lower right. The view of Washington D.C. shows the Capitol Building at the center right and the National Air and Space Museum at center left (immediately below the grassy rectangles of the Mall).
Malin Space Science Systems and the California Institute of Technology built the MOC using spare hardware from the Mars Observer mission. MSSS operates the camera from its facilities in San Diego, CA. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Mars Surveyor Operations Project operates the Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft with its industrial partner, Lockheed Martin Astronautics, from facilities in Pasadena, CA and Denver, CO.