Status Report

NASA Mars Picture of the Day: Mars Exploration Rover (MER-A) Spirit Landing Site

By SpaceRef Editor
January 3, 2004
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Mars Global Surveyor Mars Orbiter Camera

MGS MOC Release No. MOC2-594, 3 January 2004

NASA/JPL/Malin Space Science Systems

Excitement builds as the first Mars Exploration Rover (MER-A),
Spirit, prepares to land on Mars just after 8:35 p.m. Pacific
Standard Time today, 3 January 2004 (04:35, 4 January 2004 UTC).
Today’s Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC)
picture is a mosaic of MOC images of the Spirit landing site.
The rover is expected to land somewhere within the approximately
83 km (~52 mi) long by ~10 km (~6 mi) wide ellipse on the floor
of Gusev Crater. Clicking on the image
above will show a map of the landing site at 25 meters (82 feet)
per pixel. MOC has acquired 71 pictures of the landing site over
a period spanning 3 Mars years (from July 1999 through December 2003),
and more than 85 pictures were acquired within Gusev Crater
specifically to support the Mars Exploration Rover landing
site selection process. These pictures were acquired not only
in different years, but in different seasons, so the illumination
angle, overall brightness, and patterns of emphemeral, dark dust
devil streaks and wind streaks are different from image to image
within the mosaic. In areas where no MOC coverage exists, gaps were
filled using images from the Mars Odyssey Thermal Emission Imaging
System (THEMIS) visible imager, a lower-resolution camera built by Malin Space
Science Systems and operated by Arizona State University.
The Gusev Crater landing ellipse is centered near
14.8°S, 184.8°W.
Sunlight illuminates each image in the mosaic from the left
(in some cases, upper left, in others, lower left).

Spirit will land at about 2 p.m. local time on Mars. At the same
time, Mars Global Surveyor will pass over the site and listen
for a transmission of Spirit’s entry, descent, and landing data.
These data will be relayed back to Earth by the MOC.
For more information about the Mars Exploration Rovers, visit
NASA/JPL’s Mars Exploration Program Web site. For more information about the work that Malin Space
Science Systems and MGS MOC are doing in support of the
rover missions, see: For information about how MSSS will use
this mosaic of the landing site to help find
Spirit after it touches down, see
Finding MERs.
For a 10 meter per pixel view of the landing site mosaic, download
this (BIG!!) 27.4 MByte file:

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.