Status Report

NASA Mars Picture of the Day: The First MOC High Resolution View of the Beagle 2 Landing Ellipse

By SpaceRef Editor
January 30, 2004
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Mars Global Surveyor Mars Orbiter Camera

MGS MOC Release No. MOC2-621, 30 January 2004

5 m/pixel view (1 MByte)
3 m/pixel view (3.1 MByte)
1 m/pixel view (28 MBytes)

60 m/pixel view (476 KBytes)
30 m/pixel view (1.5 MBytes)
15 m/pixel view (21 MBytes)

NASA/JPL/Malin Space Science Systems

The Beagle 2 lander reached Mars on 25 December 2003, but no communication
with the lander has occurred since that time (as of this writing).
Following the spacecraft’s
arrival in Isidis Planitia near 11.7°N, 269.6°W, the final
landing ellipse size and location were better refined. As it turns out,
there were no Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) Mars Orbiter
Camera (MOC) high resolution images of the final ellipse. The very first
opportunity to acquire a MOC image of the ellipse after the Beagle 2
arrival occurred on 5 January 2004.

The 5 January 2004 opportunity did not come without issues, however.
One problem—the atmosphere of Mars became quite dusty in middle
and late December 2003. Increased dust opacity degrades the quality
of MOC high resolution images. The second problem—shortly after the
Mars Exploration Rover (MER-A) Spirit landing on 4 January 2004,
Mars Global Surveyor fired its rockets to begin the process of
moving into position for the 25 January 2004 MER-B (Opportunity)
landing. The MOC image of the Beagle 2 site had to be commanded
and uplinked to MGS before the results of this burn were known.
In other words, if the burn did not go according to plan, the
image might not hit the Beagle 2 landing ellipse.

In the end, the MGS burn went as planned and the MOC image of
the Beagle 2 landing ellipse was obtained, on schedule, on
5 January 2004. The picture at the left, above, is a map-projected
view of the 5 January 2004 high resolution image. It was acquired
with a resolution of about 1.5 m/pixel, and is available here
at projected scales of 1, 3, and 5 m/pixel. As expected, the
high resolution image is somewhat noisy and hazy because of
dust suspended high in the atmosphere. There is no obvious sign
of the lander in this image, which only covers a fraction of the
area in which Beagle 2 might have landed.
The map on the right,
above, shows the final Beagle 2 landing ellipse with the location
of the new MOC image placed within this context. The map is
a mosaic of
Mars Odyssey Thermal Emission Imaging System
(THEMIS) visible and daytime infrared images
THEMIS is operated at Arizona State University; the map
was produced at Malin Space Science Systems to provide context
for the Beagle 2 landing site.
In both the MOC picture and the landing ellipse mosaic, sunlight
illuminates the images from the left. For scale, the MOC image is
about 3 km (1.9 mi) wide. North is up.

For additional information about Beagle 2 and its landing site, see:

For additional information about the Mars Odyssey Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS), see:

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.