Status Report

NASA Mars Picture of the Day: Locating Landers on Mars

By SpaceRef Editor
January 4, 2004
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Mars Global Surveyor Mars Orbiter Camera

MGS MOC Release No. MOC2-595, 4 January 2004




NASA/JPL/Malin Space Science Systems

In 2003, a new technique was pioneered by the
Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC)
experiment to allow the camera to obtain images with
better than 1 meter (~ 3 ft) per pixel resolution. By
pitching the spacecraft at a rate faster than
the spacecraft moves in its orbit around Mars, MOC
is able to obtain pictures with a down-track resolution
of about 50 cm/pixel (~20 inches/pixel), although the
cross-track resolution remains ~1.5 m/pixel (5 ft/pixel).
One of the key goals of this image motion compensation (IMC)
technique is to be able to image landers, such as the
Mars Exploration Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, on the
martian surface. The two pictures shown here were
acquired during the IMC testing in 2003. The first
shows the location of the Mars Pathfinder lander (MPF) and
the nearby boulder, Yogi. The second image shows the
location of the Viking 1 (VL-1) lander. These locations
were determined by using sight lines from the landers to
near and far objects seen in the pictures acquired by
the landers, and then matching these to locations in earlier,
1.5 to 3.0 m/pixel MOC images. Then, the IMC images, shown here, were
acquired by MGS so that the actual landers, sitting on
the martian surface, might be resolved. This technique only
works well when the location of the lander
is already fairly-well established. It would be extremely
difficult to find a lander for which the location is
uncertain, such as Viking 2 or Mars Polar Lander (in
fact, for Mars Polar Lander, it would take over 60 years
to map out the entire landing ellipse in which the
spacecraft was lost). The two images shown here are
illuminated from the left and show areasonly a few hundred
meters across.

More information about how MGS MOC will be used to help
locate the Mars Exploration Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity,
can be found by visiting:
“Finding MERs”.

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, California.
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,
California and Denver, Colorado.

SpaceRef staff editor.