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Waspie_Dwarf

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter

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The Exploration of Mars -

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter


The original "Exploration of Mars" topic became excessively long. As a result the topic has been split into individual, mission based, topics. The "Exploration of Mars" topic is now for news and discoveries not specific to any one mission.

Links to the other topics can be found below:Waspie_Dwarf

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First Color HiRISE Image of Mars


04.07.06

linked-image


This is the first color image of Mars from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. At the center portion of the camera's array of light detectors there are extra detectors to image in green and near-infrared color bandpasses, to be combined with the black-and-white images (from red-bandpass detectors) to create color images. This is not natural color as seen by human eyes, but infrared color -- shifted to longer wavelengths. This image also has been processed to enhance subtle color variations. The southern half of the scene is brighter and bluer than the northern half, perhaps due to early-morning fog in the atmosphere. Large-scale streaks in the northern half are due to the action of wind on surface materials. The blankets of material ejected from the many small fresh craters are generally brighter and redder than the surrounding surface, but a few are darker and less red. Two greenish spots in the middle right of the scene may have an unusual composition, and are good future targets for the Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars, a mineral-identifying instrument on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter ( http://crism.jhuapl.edu/). In the bottom half of the image we see a redder color in the rough areas, where wind and sublimation of water or carbon dioxide ice have partially eroded patches of smooth-textured deposits.

This image was taken by HiRISE on March 24, 2006. The image is centered at 33.65 degrees south latitude, 305.07 degrees east longitude. It is oriented such that north is 7 degrees to the left of up. The range to the target was 2,493 kilometers (1,549 miles). At this distance the image scale is 2.49 meters (8.17 feet) per pixel, so objects as small as 7.5 meters (24.6 feet) are resolved. In total this image is 49.92 kilometers (31.02 miles) or 20,081 pixels wide and 23.66 kilometers (14.70 miles) or 9,523 pixels long. The image was taken at a local Mars time of 07:33 and the scene is illuminated from the upper right with a solar incidence angle of 78 degrees, thus the sun was 12 degrees above the horizon. At an Ls of 29 degrees (with Ls an indicator of Mars' position in its orbit around the sun), the season on Mars is southern autumn.

Images from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment and additional information about the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter are available online at: http://www.nasa.gov/mro or http://HiRISE.lpl.arizona.edu. For information about NASA and agency programs on the Web, visit: http://www.nasa.gov.

JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Lockheed Martin Space Systems is the prime contractor for the project and built the spacecraft. The HiRISE camera was built by Ball Aerospace and Technology Corporation and is operated by the University of Arizona.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona

+ High resolution JPEG

Source: NASA - MRO Edited by Waspie_Dwarf

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NASA Mars Cameras Debut as NASA Craft Adjusts Orbit


Researchers today released the first Mars images from two of the three science cameras on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

Images taken by the orbiter's Context Camera and Mars Color Imager during the first tests of those instruments at Mars confirm the performance capability of the cameras. The test images were taken from nearly 10 times as far from the planet as the spacecraft will be once it finishes reshaping its orbit. Test images from the third camera of the science payload were released previously.

user posted image
Image above: The Mars Color Imager test
view looks northward and includes the large
Argyre Basin in Mars' southern hemisphere.
Image courtesy: NASA/JPL/MSSS

+ Full image and caption
+ Browse version of image


"The test images show that both cameras will meet or exceed their performance requirements once they're in the low-altitude science orbit. We're looking forward to that time with great anticipation," said Dr. Michael Malin of Malin Space Science Systems, San Diego. Malin is team leader for the context camera and principal investigator for the Mars Color Imager.

The cameras took the test images two weeks after the orbiter's March 10 arrival at Mars and before the start of "aerobraking," a process of reshaping the orbit by using controlled contact with Mars' atmosphere. This week, the spacecraft is dipping into Mars' upper atmosphere as it approaches the altitude range that it will use for shrinking its orbit gradually over the next six months.

The orbiter is currently flying in very elongated loops around Mars. Each circuit lasts about 35 hours and takes the spacecraft about 27,000 miles (43,000 kilometers) away from the planet before swinging back in close.

On Wednesday, a short burn of intermediate sized thrusters while the orbiter was at the most distant point nudged the spacecraft to pass from approximately 70 miles (112 kilometers) to within 66 miles (107 kilometers) of Mars' surface.

"This brings us well into Mars' upper atmosphere for the drag pass and will enable the mission to start reducing the orbit to its final science altitude," said Dan Johnston of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., deputy mission manager.

After hundreds of passes through the upper atmosphere, the drag will gradually reduce the far point of the orbit until the spacecraft is in a nearly circular orbit every two hours.

After the spacecraft gets into the proper orbit for its primary science phase, the six science instruments on board will begin their systematic examination of Mars. The Mars Color Imager will view the planet's entire atmosphere and surface every day to monitor changes in clouds, wind-blown dust, polar caps and other variable features.

Images from the Context Camera will have a resolution of 20 feet (6 meters) per pixel, allowing surface features as small as a basketball court to be discerned. The images will cover swaths 18.6 miles (30 kilometers) wide.

The Context Camera will show how smaller areas examined by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment Camera -- which will have the best resolution ever achieved from Mars orbit -- and by the mineral-identifying Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer fit into the broader landscape. It will also allow scientists to watch for small-scale changes, such as newly cut gullies, in the broader coverage area.

The new test images from the Context Camera and the Mars Color Imager are available online at www.nasa.gov/mro, www.msss.com/mro/ctx/images/2006/04/13/ and www.msss.com/mro/marci/images/2006/04/13/.

For more detailed information about Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, see http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/mro.

NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is managed by JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, for the NASA Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, is the prime contractor.

Media contact:
Guy Webster (818) 354-6278
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

Dwayne Brown/Erica Hupp (202) 358-1726/1237
NASA Headquarters, Washington

2006-055


Source: NASA - MRO - News & Media Resources Edited by Waspie_Dwarf

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First Context Camera Image of Mars


user posted image

This is the first image of Mars taken by the Context Camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The spacecraft began orbiting the red planet on March 10, 2006. During its 10th close approach to Mars, on March 24, it turned its cameras to view the planet's surface. Although the images acquired were about 10 times lower in resolution than will ultimately be obtained when the spacecraft has finished reshaping its orbit for the mission's primary science phase, these test images provide important confirmation of the performance of the cameras and the spacecraft.

This first image by the Context Camera includes some chaotic terrain at the east end of Mars' Valles Marineris, seen along the top (northern) edge of the image. The image has a scale of about 87 meters (285 feet) per pixel, which is 14.5 times lower resolution than will be acquired during the primary science phase. Typical images from the Context Camera acquired during that phase of the mission will have a resolution of 6 meters (20 feet) per pixel, and will cover an area about 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) wide.

Note that, because these are initial, test images, there is some linear striping in the images. This results from incomplete removal of pixel-to-pixel variations in the Context Camera detector by the present calibration software. One use of the test imaging is an opportunity to fine-tune the calibrations before the primary science phase begins.

+ Full caption and high resolution JPEG

Image Credit: NASA/JPL/MS


Source: NASA - MRO - Multimedia

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Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Continues Aerobraking


NASA's latest orbiter to visit the Red Planet is well into its main phase of aerobraking. Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has cut about 10 hours off of its initial orbit by strategically dipping in and out of Mars' thin atmosphere.

Now at a 25 hour-orbit, the spacecraft is circling the planet roughly once per martian sol (day), which is 24 hours, 39 minutes.

The periapsis altitude (the closest the spacecraft comes to the planet) of its orbit is at 106 kilometers (66 miles). Periapsis is near 75 degrees south latitude in the South Pole region of Mars.

"The spacecraft will perform a small maneuver tonight (May 10, 2006) that will lower periapsis altitude to 104 kilometers (65 miles)," said Deputy Mission Manager Dan Johnston. "This will allow us to maintain our desired aerobraking orbit period reduction rate. The spacecraft continues to perform very well as we skim through the martian atmosphere."

Source: NASA - MRO - Update

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Pace Quickens for NASA Spacecraft Orbiting Mars


NASA's newest spacecraft at Mars has already cut the size and duration of each orbit by more than half, just 11 weeks into a 23-week process of shrinking its orbit. By other indicators, the lion's share of the job lies ahead.

user posted image
Image above: Artist concept of Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter during aerobraking. Image credit: NASA/JPL
+ Full image and caption


"The orbits are getting shorter and shorter. We've finished about 80 of them so far, but we have about 400 more to go, and the pace really quickens toward the end," said Dan Johnston, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter deputy mission manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

Supplementing the daily attentions of navigators, engineers and scientists, the orbiter has begun using unprecedented onboard smarts to schedule some of its own attitude maneuvers during each orbit.

The current phase of the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter mission, called "aerobraking," began in late March with the spacecraft in a pattern of very elongated, 35-hour orbits. It will end in early September, according to current plans, once hundreds of careful dips into Mars' atmosphere have adjusted the orbit to nearly circular, two-hour loops. Then, after some touch-up engine burns, deployment of a radar antenna and other transitional tasks, the spacecraft will be in the right orbit and configuration to start its main science phase in November.

During the two-year science phase, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter will examine Mars from subsurface layers to the top of the atmosphere. It will use its 3-meter (10-foot) diameter dish antenna to pump data Earthward at up to 10 times the pace of any previous Mars mission. Besides providing information about the history and extent of Mars' water, the orbiter will assess prospective landing sites for NASA robots launching in 2007 and 2009.

When the spacecraft first entered orbit around Mars, its farthest point from the planet was about 45,000 kilometers (28,000 miles). After 11 weeks of aerobraking operations, this distance has been reduced to about 20,000 kilometers (12,000 miles). On each orbit since early April, the nearest-to-Mars portion of the orbit has passed through the upper atmosphere, usually at about 105 kilometers (65 miles) above the surface of the planet. The drag created by interaction of the atmosphere with spacecraft surfaces slows the craft.

"Our biggest challenge is the variability of the atmosphere," Johnston said. "It's not uncommon to get a 35 percent change in how much drag the spacecraft experiences from one pass to the next. We need to monitor each pass carefully and be prepared to change the altitude to a safe one for the next pass, if necessary."

While the orbiter is above the atmosphere, it can orient its antenna toward Earth and its solar panels toward the sun. Before it enters the atmosphere for each pass, it pivots so that the back surfaces of the solar panels and antenna face the direction of travel. An innovative capability of Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter's onboard software enables it to calculate the time when it needs to reorient itself for the next pass. This feature, called "periapsis timing estimator," was activated in May.

JPL's Jim Graf, project manager for Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, said, "In the past, the times for turning to aerobraking attitude had to be calculated on the ground and sent to the spacecraft for each pass. Now, the spacecraft can do that itself. This will be especially helpful when the spacecraft gets to the point when it is doing several drag passes per day."

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is the third NASA Mars mission -- after Mars Global Surveyor in 1997 and Mars Odyssey in 2001 -- to use aerobraking to get into a desired, near-circular orbit. The strategy allows launching the spacecraft with much less fuel than would be required if using just rocket engines to decelerate into the desired orbit. Each drag pass this month is slowing Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter by an average of about 2 meters per second (4.5 miles per hour), which would otherwise require consuming about a kilogram (2.2 pounds) of fuel.

Transition activities during the two months between the end of aerobraking and the beginning of the main science phase will include unfolding two 5-meter (16-foot) lengths of antenna for a ground-penetrating radar instrument, removing the lens cap from a mineral-identifying spectrometer instrument and characterizing all instruments' performance in different modes of use. From early October to early November, Mars will be nearly behind the sun as viewed from Earth. Communication with all spacecraft at Mars will be unreliable during portions of that period, so commanding will be minimized.

Additional information about Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is available online at http://www.nasa.gov/mro . The mission is managed by JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, for the NASA Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, is the prime contractor for the project and built the spacecraft.


Media contact: Guy Webster 818-354-6278

Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

Erica Hupp 202-358-1237
NASA Headquarters, Washington, D.C.

200--085


Source: NASA - Missions - MRO

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Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Nears End of Aerobraking


NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has begun the final and fastest-paced portion of its "aerobraking" process of using friction with the top of Mars' atmosphere to shrink the spacecraft's orbit.

user posted image
Image above: Artist concept of Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter during aerobraking. Image credit: NASA/JPL

After nearly 400 drag passes into the atmosphere during the closest-to-Mars portion of each orbit, the spacecraft has reduced the farthest point in its orbit to an altitude of 1,100 kilometers (684 miles). The spacecraft takes 2 hours, 7 minutes to complete one orbit, as of Aug. 25. In contrast, during the weeks between Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter's arrival at Mars on March 10 and its start of aerobraking in early April, the most distant point of each orbit was about 43,000 kilometers (27,000 miles) away from the planet and each orbit lasted about 35 hours. By using the aerobraking technique, the project has saved carrying 600 kilograms (about 1,300 pounds) of additional propellant to the red planet.

"We are in the end-game part of aerobraking from now until August 30, when we will fire our thrusters to move the spacecraft out of an atmosphere-grazing orbit," said Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Project Manager Jim Graf, of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. "Because of the variations in the atmosphere and the short orbits, this period is the most exciting and most dangerous of the five months of aerobraking. The team is on '24-seven' until the 30th."

The lowest-altitude part of each drag pass has been about 100 kilometers (62 miles), varying by a few percent up or down due to gravitational variations in the lumpy planet and as adjusted by small maneuvers that keep the right balance between atmospheric drag and heating as the spacecraft flies through the variable atmosphere.

On each of the aerobraking passes, the spacecraft records the density of the atmosphere on both the inbound and outbound legs as it flies through its closest approach to the planet. This information is used to characterize atmospheric variability, which helps guide the flight team to design the right maneuvers. The data will also be analyzed to understand the structure and circulation of the upper atmosphere.

The desired orbit for systematic observations by the spacecraft's six scientific instruments ranges from an altitude of 320 kilometers (199 miles) over Mars' north pole to an altitude of 255 kilometers (158 miles) over the south pole, a loop that takes one hour and 53 minutes to fly. The flight team plans to get the spacecraft's orbit into that size and shape by mid-September, with two maneuvers to raise the low-altitude portion of the orbit following completion of the aerobraking that is lowering the high-altitude portion. The mission's main science observations are scheduled to begin in November, after a period of intermittent communications while Mars passes nearly behind the sun.

As the flight team manages the end-game aerobraking, engineers are also studying a stuck waveguide transfer switch in the orbiter's X-band radio communication system. This switch allows one of the spacecraft's two X-band amplifiers to transmit through either the low-gain antenna, which has a broad field-of-view, or the high-gain antenna, a dish antenna 3 meters (10 feet) in diameter that is used to downlink high-rate science data. The present spacecraft operation is stable and allows for the full amount of science data to be transmitted to Earth. The stuck switch limits the flexibility of choosing which amplifier is used to transmit data. Engineers are conducting tests to understand the root cause of the switch becoming stuck and to explore possibilities for restoring the operability of the switch.

###


Source: NASA - Missions - MRO

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Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Successfully Concludes Aerobraking


Nearly six months after it entered orbit, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has concluded its aerobraking phase. The spacecraft had been dipping in and out of the Red Planet’s atmosphere to adjust its orbit. On August 30, 2006, during its 445th orbit, the spacecraft fired its intermediate thrusters to raise the low point of its orbit and stop dipping into the atmosphere. The six-minute engine burn began at 10:36 a.m. PST, altering the spacecraft’s course so that its periapsis (the closest it comes to the planet) is about 210 kilometers (130 miles) above the planet, well above the atmosphere.

user posted image
Image above: Artist concept of Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter during aerobraking. Image credit: NASA/JPL

"Aerobraking has changed the course of the spacecraft from just over 35 hours per orbit to just under two hours per orbit, and it has saved us roughly 600 kilograms (1,322 pounds) of fuel," said Dan Johnston, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter deputy mission manager. "Getting out of aerobraking was a phenomenal moment, and everyone on the flight teams has done a fantastic job to get us where we need to be for science acquisition."

The next step for the spacecraft will be two additional orbit adjustments to put the orbiter in the ideal path to begin gathering the most detailed scientific data yet from the Red Planet. The mission's main science observations are scheduled to begin in November, after a period of transitional deployments and tests, then three weeks of intermittent communications while Mars passes nearly behind the sun.


Source: NASA - Missions - MRO

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Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Adjusts Angle of Orbit


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Credit: NASA/JPL

NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter fired its six intermediate-size thrusters for 210 seconds Tuesday in a maneuver to make the shape of its orbit closer to the planned geometry for the mission's main science phase, beginning in November.

The maneuver raised the portion of the elliptical orbit at which the spacecraft comes nearest to Mars -- the periapsis -- from 216 kilometers (134 miles) above the surface to 320 kilometers (199 miles). A thruster firing on Aug. 30 had lifted the periapsis high enough to end a five-month process of dipping into the atmosphere every orbit to gradually shrink the orbit. The spacecraft now completes each loop around Mars in just under two hours.

The Sept. 5 maneuver also fine-tuned the orbit's angle relative to Mars' equator, tweaking it less than one degree to 92.5 degrees.

A longer firing of the engines next week is planned for lowering the high point of the orbit to make the shape more circular and for locking into a pattern of keeping the periapsis over Mars' South Pole and the far point -- the apoapsis -- over the North Pole.


Source: NASA/JPL - MRO

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NASA Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Reaches Planned Flight Path


NASA's newest spacecraft at Mars has completed the challenging half-year task of shaping its orbit to the nearly circular, low-altitude pattern from which it will scrutinize the planet.

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter fired its six intermediate-size thrusters for 12.5 minutes Monday afternoon, Sept. 11, shifting the low point of its orbit to stay near the Martian south pole and the high point to stay near the north pole.? The altitude of the orbit ranges from 250 kilometers (155 miles) to 316 kilometers (196 miles) above the surface.

user posted image
Image above: Artist's concept of Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter at Mars.
Image credit: NASA/JPL


"This maneuver puts us into our science orbit," said Dan Johnston, deputy mission manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. "Getting to this point is a great achievement." Challenging activities remain ahead this month, such as deploying an antenna 10 meters (33 feet) long and removing a lens cap from a crucial instrument. The main science investigations will begin in November. During its two-year science phase, the mission will return more data about Mars than all previous Mars missions combined.

The flight team for the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter sent the bus-sized spacecraft through the upper fringe of Mars' atmosphere 426 times between early April and Aug. 30.? This "aerobraking" technique used friction with the Martian atmosphere to gradually decrease the highest-altitude point of the elliptical orbit from 45,000 kilometers (28,000 miles) to 486 kilometers (302 miles).?The lowest-altitude point during aerobraking ranged from 98 to 105 kilometers (61 to 65 miles). It was carefully managed with input from researchers at JPL; Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver; NASA Langley Research Center, Hampton, Va.,?and elsewhere, based on spacecraft data and atmospheric fluctuations.

During the first three weeks after it arrived at Mars on March 10, the spacecraft took more than 35 hours to fly each very elongated orbit. During the final weeks of aerobraking, it was flying more than 10 orbits each day. "The pace of work got extremely demanding as we got down to two-hour orbits," Johnston said. "We had shifts working around the clock."

Monday's maneuver was the mission's biggest burn since the 27-minute firing to slow the spacecraft enough for Mars' gravity to snare it into orbit on March 10. The benefit of aerobraking is to avoid hauling unnecessary fuel to Mars for thrusters. Compared with relying solely on thruster firings to shrink and shape the orbit, aerobraking cut the mission's fuel needs by about 600 kilograms (about 1,300 pounds.) At least one small adjustment maneuver is still ahead.

One key remaining preparation for the mission's science payload is deployment of the antenna for the Shallow Subsurface Radar, an instrument provided by the Italian Space Agency. The antenna, developed by Northrop Grumman Space Technology Astro Aerospace, Carpinteria, Calif., remained safely stowed during aerobraking. Later this month, it will be released to unfold itself and extend 5 meters (16.4 feet) on either side of the spacecraft. After this ground-penetrating radar has been checked and calibrated, it "has the potential to detect buried channels, buried craters and ice layers," said Dr. Roberto Seu of the University of Rome La Sapienza, leader of the instrument's science team.

During aerobraking, a lens cap protected the mission's mineral-mapping Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars. Removal of the cap this month will allow researchers to start checking and calibrating the spectrometer's performance. "Our most important goal is to find where past environments on Mars were wet long enough to leave a mineral signature on the surface," said Dr. Scott Murchie of Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, Md., principal investigator for the spectrometer.

A series of trial observations by all the instruments will complete the spacecraft checkouts at the end of the month, including tests of all observing modes.?In addition to data acquisition by the radar and spectrometer, images will be taken by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment and the Context Imager.?The Mars Color Imager and Mars Climate Sounder will also begin monitoring Mars' atmosphere.?During the next four years, these instruments on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter will examine Mars to learn about processes that have affected it and to inspect potential landing sites for future missions. The spacecraft will also serve as a communications relay for Mars surface missions.

Information about the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is online at http://www.nasa.gov/mro. The mission is managed by JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, for the NASA Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, is the prime contractor and built the spacecraft.

Media contacts: Guy Webster 818-354-6278
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

Erica Hupp/Dwayne Brown 202-358-1237/1726
NASA Headquarters, Washington, D.C.

2006-106


Source: NASA- Missions - MRO

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Ground-Piercing Radar on NASA Mars Orbiter Ready for Work
09.19.06


NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has extended the long-armed antenna of its radar, preparing the instrument to begin probing for underground layers of Mars.

The orbiter's Shallow Subsurface Radar, provided by the Italian Space Agency, will search to depths of about one kilometer (six-tenths of a mile) to find and map layers of ice, rock and, if present, liquid water.

user posted image
Image above:Image credit: NASA/JPL
+ Browse version of image


The radar's antenna had remained safely folded and tucked away throughout the flight to Mars from Aug. 12, 2005, to March 10, 2006, and while the orbiter used the friction of dipping into the top of Mars' atmosphere 426 times in the past six months to shrink the size of its orbit. Latches on the restraints were popped open on Sept. 16, and the spring-loaded twin arms of the antenna unfolded themselves. Subsequent information from the spacecraft indicates that each arm properly extended to its 5 meter (16.4 feet) length.

"The deployment of the antenna has succeeded. It went exactly as planned," said Dr. Enrico Flamini, the Italian Space Agency's program manager for the Shallow Subsurface Radar. "Now the excitement builds about what the radar will find hiding beneath the surface of Mars."

A radar-team engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., Ali Safaeinili, said, "Motion sensors on Mars Reconnaisance Orbiter gave us good evidence that the antenna had deployed successfully. The amount of antenna vibrations as the arms unfolded was within the range anticipated."

The radar received its first radio echo from the Martian surface during a test on Sept.18, providing a preliminary indication that the entire instrument is working properly. Researchers will use the instrument for more test observations at the end of this month. Communication with all spacecraft at Mars will be intermittent during most of October while that planet is behind the sun from Earth's perspective. The two-year-long main science phase of the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter mission will begin in November.

"We will use the Shallow Radar to map buried channels, to study the internal structure of ice caps and to see boundaries between layers of different materials," said Dr. Roberto Seu of the University of Rome La Sapienza, leader of the instrument's science team. "The data will provide our first detailed look just under the Martian surface, where ices might reside that would be accessible for future explorers."

The radar instrument on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter will complement a similar instrument that went into use last year on the European Space Agency's Mars Express orbiter, the Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionospheric Sounding. The two instruments use different radar frequencies. The one on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter can discriminate between thinner layers, but cannot penetrate as deep underground, compared with the one on Mars Express. Both result from Italian and American partnership in using radar for planetary probes.

Alcatel Alenia Spazio-Italia, in Rome, is the Italian Space Agency's prime contractor for the instrument. Astro Aerospace, of Carpineria, Calif., a business unit of Los Angeles-based Northrop Grumman Corp., developed the antenna as a subcontractor to Alcatel Alenia.

Further information about the Shallow Subsurface Radar is online at www.sharad.org . For more detailed information about the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, see www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/MRO/main . The mission is managed by JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, for the NASA Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, is the prime contractor and built the orbiter.

Media contacts: Guy Webster (818)354-6278
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

Dwayne Brown/Erica Hupp 202-358-1726/1237
NASA Headquarters, Washington

2006-109


Source: NASA - Missions - MRO

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New Spectrometer Begins Its Global Map of Mars


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+ Full view (browse) | + High resolution

The Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars, a mineral mapping instrument on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (CRISM), began observing Mars after its lens cover was opened on Sept. 27, 2006.

This image shows one of the first regions of Mars measured after CRISM's cover was opened.

CRISM takes images in two basic formats. The first format is a "targeted image" about 10 kilometers by 10 kilometers (about 6 miles by 6 miles), at about 18 meters (60 feet) per pixel, in 544 colors covering wavelengths of 0.36 to 3.92 micrometers. The second format is a lower-resolution strip 10 kilometers (6 miles) wide and thousands of kilometers long, at 200 meters (660 feet) per pixel, in 72 colors. Many thousands of these "multispectral survey" strips are used to build a global map.

The image is part of the second multispectral survey strip, taken at 22:36 UTC (6:36 p.m. EDT) on Sept. 27, 2006. Only minimal processing of the data has been done at this early point in the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter's mission. The strip crosses part of the north polar region named Olympia Undae, and stretches between 76.7 north latitude, 141.9 east longitude and 85.5 north, 115.8 east. From the top, the northern end of the image crosses layers of dusty and clean ice in the north polar cap. Moving south the image covers dusty sedimentary deposits, dark sand dunes, and outlying polar ice deposits. (The thumbnail shown here covers only the northernmost part of the full image. Click on the thumbnail to view the full product.)

This image shows three representations of the 72 colors. The left panel is a nearly true-color composite in which the blue, green, and red planes are 0.44, 0.53, and 0.60 micrometer light - nearly as the human eye would see. The contrast between the bright ice and dark dunes is so large that the dunes are barely seen. The middle panel is false color constructed from infrared wavelengths just beyond the range of the human eye. The blue, green, and red planes cover 0.80, 0.95, and 1.06 micrometer light. In this rendering of the data the differences between ice- and soil-rich regions are not as apparent because the colors of ice and dust are similar in this wavelength region. The right panel uses 1.15, 1.8, and 2.25 micrometer light in the blue, green and red planes and provides a dramatically different view of the scene. The areas of highest ice content appear in blue, and those with a mix of dust and ice - most of the scene - appear yellowish. The dunes are now visible against the ice because of their higher brightness at longer infrared wavelengths, and appear ruddy brown.

The Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars is one of six science instruments on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Led by The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, Md., the CRISM team includes expertise from universities, government agencies and small businesses in the United States and abroad. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif., manages the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington.

CRISM's mission: Find the spectral fingerprints of aqueous and hydrothermal deposits and map the geology, composition and stratigraphy of surface features. The instrument will also watch the seasonal variations in Martian dust and ice aerosols, and water content in surface materials - leading to new understanding of the climate.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL/JHUAPL


Source: NASA - Missions - MRO

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NASA's New Mars Camera Gives Dramatic View of Planet


Mars is ready for its close-up. The highest-resolution camera ever to orbit Mars is returning low-altitude images to Earth from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

Rocks and surface features as small as armchairs are revealed in the first image from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter since the spacecraft maneuvered into its final, low-altitude orbital path. The imaging of the red planet at this resolution heralds a new era in Mars exploration.

user posted image
Image above: The high resolution camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance
Orbiter captured its first image of Mars in the mapping orbit, demonstrating
the full resolution capability, on Sept. 29, 2006.
Image credit: NASA/JPL/UA
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The image of a small fraction of Mars' biggest canyon reached Earth on Friday, the beginning of a week of tests for the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment and other instruments on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

"We are elated at the sharpness of the image, revealing such fine detail in the landscape," said Dr. Alfred McEwen of the University of Arizona, Tucson, who is the principal investigator for this camera. The target area includes the deepest part of Ius Chasma, one portion of the vast Valles Marineris canyon. Valles Marineris is the largest known canyon in the solar system, as long as the distance from California to New York.

The image is available online at http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/MRO/multimedia/mro-20060929a.html and http://hiroc.lpl.arizona.edu/images/TRA/TRA_000823_1720/.

The camera returned test images after Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter went into orbit around Mars on March 10, 2006, but those were from altitudes more than eight times as high as the orbiter is flying now. Since March, the spacecraft has shrunk its orbit by dipping more than 400 times into the top of the Martian atmosphere to shave velocity. It is now flying in its final, nearly circular orbit at altitudes of 250 to 316 kilometers (155 to 196 miles). The orbit will remain this shape and size for the mission's two-year primary science phase, which begins in November.

During its primary science phase, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter will return more data about the red planet than all previous missions combined, pouring data to Earth at about 10 times the rate of any earlier Mars spacecraft. Scientists will analyze the information to gain a better understanding of the distribution and history of Mars' water -- whether ice, vapor or liquid -- and of the processes that formed and modified the planet's surface.

In addition to the high-resolution camera, the orbiter's science payload includes a mineral-identifying spectrometer, a ground-penetrating radar, a context camera for imaging wide swaths of the surface, a wide-angle color imager for monitoring the entire planet daily, and an instrument for mapping and monitoring water vapor and other constituents in the atmosphere.

For most of October, Mars will be passing nearly behind the sun from Earth's perspective. Communication will be intermittent. Activities will be minimal for Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and other spacecraft at Mars during this time, and they will resume in early November.

Information about the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is online at http://www.nasa.gov/mro. The mission is managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, for the NASA Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, is the prime contractor and built the spacecraft. The High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment is operated by the University of Arizona and the instrument was built by Ball Aerospace and Technology Corp., Boulder, Colo.


Media contacts: Guy Webster 818-354-6278
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

Lori Stiles 520-626-4402
University of Arizona, Tucson

2006-117


Source: NASA - Missions - MRO

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North Polar Layered Deposits in Summer

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The High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter acquired this image during its first day of test imaging from the spacecraft's low-altitude mapping orbit, Sept. 29, 2006.

This image of Mars' north polar layered deposits was taken during the summer season (solar longitude of 113.6 degrees), when carbon dioxide frost had evaporated from the surface. The bright spots seen here are most likely patches of water frost, but the location of the frost patches does not appear to controlled by topography. Layers are visible at the right side of the image, mostly due to difference in slope between them. The variations in slope are probably caused by differences in the physical properties of the layers. Thinner layers that have previously been observed in these deposits are visible, and may represent annual deposition of water ice and dust that is thought to form the polar layered deposits. These deposits are thought to record global climate variations on Mars, similar to ice ages on Earth. HiRISE images such as this should allow Mars' climate record to be inferred and compared with climate changes on Earth.

This image was taken by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera onboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft on September 29, 2006. Shown here is the full image, centered at 86.5 degree latitude, 172.0 degrees east longitude. The image is oriented such that north is to the top. The range to the target site was 298.9 kilometers (186.8 miles). At this distance the image scale is 59.8 centimeters (23.5 inches) per pixel (with two-by-two binning} so objects about 1.79 meters (70 inches) across are resolved. In total the original image was 12.2 kilometers 7.58 mile; 10024 pixels) wide and 6.1 kilometers (3.79 miles; 5000 pixels) long. The image was taken at a local Mars time of 3:30 PM and the scene is illuminated from the southwest with a solar incidence angle of 63.5 degrees, thus the sun was about 26.5 degrees above the horizon.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Lockheed Martin Space Systems is the prime contractor for the project and built the spacecraft. The HiRISE camera was built by Ball Aerospace Corporation and is operated by the University of Arizona.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL/UA

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Source: NASA - Missions - MRO

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New Mars Camera's First Image of Mars from Mapping Orbit (Full Frame)

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The high resolution camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter captured its first image of Mars in the mapping orbit, demonstrating the full resolution capability, on Sept. 29, 2006. The High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) acquired this first image at 8:16 AM (Pacific Time). With the spacecraft at an altitude of 280 kilometers (174 miles), the image scale is 25 centimeters per pixel (10 inches per pixel). If a person were located on this part of Mars, he or she would just barely be visible in this image.

The image covers a small portion of the floor of Ius Chasma, one branch of the giant Valles Marineris system of canyons. The image illustrates a variety of processes that have shaped the Martian surface. There are bedrock exposures of layered materials, which could be sedimentary rocks deposited in water or from the air. Some of the bedrock has been faulted and folded, perhaps the result of large-scale forces in the crust or from a giant landslide. The image resolves rocks as small as small as 90 centimeters (3 feet) in diameter. It includes many dunes or ridges of windblown sand.

This image was taken by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment camera onboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft on Sept. 29, 2006. Shown here is the full image, centered at minus 7.8 degrees latitude, 279.5 degrees east longitude. The image is oriented such that north is to the top. The range to the target site was 297 kilometers (185.6 miles). At this distance the image scale is 25 centimeters (10 inches) per pixel (with one-by-one binning) so objects about 75 centimeters (30 inches) across are resolved. The image was taken at a local Mars time of 3:30 PM and the scene is illuminated from the west with a solar incidence angle of 59.7 degrees, thus the sun was about 30.3 degrees above the horizon. The season on Mars is northern winter, southern summer.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Lockheed Martin Space Systems is the prime contractor for the project and built the spacecraft. The HiRISE camera was built by Ball Aerospace Corporation and is operated by the University of Arizona.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL/UA

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Source: NASA - Missions - MRO

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'Victoria Crater' at Meridiani Planum


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This image from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter shows "Victoria crater," an impact crater at Meridiani Planum, near the equator of Mars. The crater is approximately 800 meters (half a mile) in diameter. It has a distinctive scalloped shape to its rim, caused by erosion and downhill movement of crater wall material. Layered sedimentary rocks are exposed along the inner wall of the crater, and boulders that have fallen from the crater wall are visible on the crater floor. The floor of the crater is occupied by a striking field of sand dunes.

Since January 2004, the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity has been operating at Meridiani Planum. Five days before this image was taken, Opportunity arrived at the rim of Victoria crater, after a drive of more than 9 kilometers (over 5 miles). The rover can be seen in this image, at roughly the "ten o'clock" position along the rim of the crater.

This view is a portion of an image taken by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera onboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft on Oct. 3, 2006. The complete image is centered at minus7.8 degrees latitude, 279.5 degrees East longitude. The range to the target site was 297 kilometers (185.6 miles). At this distance the image scale is 29.7 centimeters (12 inches) per pixel (with 1 x 1 binning) so objects about 89 centimeters (35 inches) across are resolved. The image shown here has been map-projected to 25 centimeters (10 inches) per pixel and north is up. The image was taken at a local Mars time of 3:30 PM and the scene is illuminated from the west with a solar incidence angle of 59.7 degrees, thus the sun was about 30.3 degrees above the horizon. At a solar longitude of 113.6 degrees, the season on Mars is northern summer.

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Images from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment and additional information about the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter are available online at: http://www.nasa.gov/mro or http://HiRISE.lpl.arizona.edu.

For information about NASA and agency programs on the Web, visit: http://www.nasa.gov.

JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Lockheed Martin Space Systems is the prime contractor for the project and built the spacecraft. The HiRISE camera was built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corporation and is operated by the University of Arizona.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL/UA

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Source: NASA - Missions - MRO

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The Opportunity Rover at 'Victoria Crater'


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This image from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter shows the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity near the rim of "Victoria crater." Victoria is an impact crater about 800 meters (half a mile) in diameter at Meridiani Planum near the equator of Mars. Opportunity has been operating on Mars since January, 2004. Five days before this image was taken, Opportunity arrived at the rim of Victoria crater, after a drive of more than 9 kilometers (over 5 miles). It then drove to the position where it is seen in this image.

Shown in the image are "Duck Bay," the eroded segment of the crater rim where Opportunity first arrived at the crater; "Cabo Frio," a sharp promontory to the south of Duck Bay; and "Cape Verde," another promontory to the north. When viewed at the highest resolution, this image shows the rover itself, wheel tracks in the soil behind it, and the rover's shadow, including the shadow of the camera mast. Since this image was taken, Opportunity has moved to the very tip of Cape Verde to perform more imaging of the interior of the crater.

This view is a portion of an image taken by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera onboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft on Oct. 3, 2006. The complete image is centered at minus7.8 degrees latitude, 279.5 degrees East longitude. The range to the target site was 297 kilometers (185.6 miles). At this distance the image scale is 29.7 centimeters (12 inches) per pixel (with 1 x 1 binning) so objects about 89 centimeters (35 inches) across are resolved. The image shown here has been map-projected to 25 centimeters (10 inches) per pixel and north is up. The image was taken at a local Mars time of 3:30 PM and the scene is illuminated from the west with a solar incidence angle of 59.7 degrees, thus the sun was about 30.3 degrees above the horizon. At a solar longitude of 113.6 degrees, the season on Mars is northern summer.

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Images from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment and additional information about the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter are available online at: http://www.nasa.gov/mro or http://HiRISE.lpl.arizona.edu.

For information about NASA and agency programs on the Web, visit: http://www.nasa.gov.

JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Lockheed Martin Space Systems is the prime contractor for the project and built the spacecraft. The HiRISE camera was built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corporation and is operated by the University of Arizona.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL/UA

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Source: NASA - Missions - MRO

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Opportunity at Crater's 'Cape Verde' (Annotated)


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This image from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter shows the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity near the rim of "Victoria Crater." Victoria is an impact crater about 800 meters (half a mile) in diameter at Meridiani Planum near the equator of Mars. Opportunity has been operating on Mars since January, 2004. Five days before this image was taken, Opportunity arrived at the rim of Victoria, after a drive of more than 9 kilometers (over 5 miles). It then drove to the position where it is seen in this image.

Shown in the image are "Duck Bay," the eroded segment of the crater rim where Opportunity first arrived at the crater; "Cabo Frio," a sharp promontory to the south of Duck Bay; and "Cape Verde," another promontory to the north. When viewed at the highest resolution, this image shows the rover itself, wheel tracks in the soil behind it, and the rover's shadow, including the shadow of the camera mast. After this image was taken, Opportunity moved to the very tip of Cape Verde to perform more imaging of the interior of the crater.

This view is a portion of an image taken by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera onboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft on Oct. 3, 2006. The complete image is centered at minus7.8 degrees latitude, 279.5 degrees East longitude. The range to the target site was 297 kilometers (185.6 miles). At this distance the image scale is 29.7 centimeters (12 inches) per pixel (with 1 x 1 binning) so objects about 89 centimeters (35 inches) across are resolved. North is up. The image was taken at a local Mars time of 3:30 PM and the scene is illuminated from the west with a solar incidence angle of 59.7 degrees, thus the sun was about 30.3 degrees above the horizon. At a solar longitude of 113.6 degrees, the season on Mars is northern summer.

Images from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment and additional information about the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter are available online at: http://www.nasa.gov/mro or http://HiRISE.lpl.arizona.edu.

For information about NASA and agency programs on the Web, visit: http://www.nasa.gov.

JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Lockheed Martin Space Systems is the prime contractor for the project and built the spacecraft. The HiRISE camera was built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corporation and is operated by the University of Arizona.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL/UA

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Source: NASA - Missions - MRO

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Opportunity at Crater's 'Cape Verde' (Red Filter)


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This image from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter shows the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity near the rim of "Victoria Crater." Victoria is an impact crater about 800 meters (half a mile) in diameter at Meridiani Planum near the equator of Mars. Opportunity has been operating on Mars since January, 2004. Five days before this image was taken, Opportunity arrived at the rim of Victoria, after a drive of more than 9 kilometers (over 5 miles). It then drove to the position where it is seen in this image.

Shown in the image are "Duck Bay," the eroded segment of the crater rim where Opportunity first arrived at the crater; "Cabo Frio," a sharp promontory to the south of Duck Bay; and "Cape Verde," another promontory to the north. When viewed at the highest resolution, this image shows the rover itself, wheel tracks in the soil behind it, and the rover's shadow, including the shadow of the camera mast. After this image was taken, Opportunity moved to the very tip of Cape Verde to perform more imaging of the interior of the crater.

This view is a portion of an image taken through a red filter by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera onboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft on Oct. 3, 2006. The complete image is centered at minus7.8 degrees latitude, 279.5 degrees East longitude. The range to the target site was 297 kilometers (185.6 miles). At this distance the image scale is 29.7 centimeters (12 inches) per pixel (with 1 x 1 binning) so objects about 89 centimeters (35 inches) across are resolved. North is up. The image was taken at a local Mars time of 3:30 PM and the scene is illuminated from the west with a solar incidence angle of 59.7 degrees, thus the sun was about 30.3 degrees above the horizon. At a solar longitude of 113.6 degrees, the season on Mars is northern summer.

Images from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment and additional information about the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter are available online at: http://www.nasa.gov/mro or http://HiRISE.lpl.arizona.edu.

For information about NASA and agency programs on the Web, visit: http://www.nasa.gov.

JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Lockheed Martin Space Systems is the prime contractor for the project and built the spacecraft. The HiRISE camera was built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corporation and is operated by the University of Arizona.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL/UA

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Source: NASA - Missions - MRO

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NASA Orbiter Reveals New Details of Mars, Young and Old


During its first week of observations from low orbit, NASA's newest Mars spacecraft is already revealing new clues about both recent and ancient environments on the red planet.

Scientists hope the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter will answer questions about the history and distribution of Mars' water by combining data from the orbiter's high-resolution camera, imaging spectrometer, context camera, ground-penetrating radar, atmospheric sounder, global color camera, radio and accelerometers.

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Image right: This view shows diverse materials and morphologies in the
region south of Mawrth Vallis on Mars. The color is composed of infrared,
red, and blue-green color images, and has been enhanced to accentuate
the color differences.
Image credit: NASA/JPL/Univ. of Arizona
+ Full image and caption


Between Sept. 29 and Oct. 6, science instruments on the spacecraft viewed dozens of sites that reflect different episodes in Mars' history. The diverse sites provide a good test for the capabilities of the spacecraft instruments. The orbiter will begin its primary science mission phase in early November when Mars re-emerges from passing nearly behind the sun.

The instruments are seeing details in the shapes and icy composition of geologically young layering near the Martian north pole. Other views offer details of a mid-latitude valley whose upper layers have been eroded away, revealing an underlying clay layer that formed a few billion years ago, when wet conditions produced the clay. Observations of a southern-hemisphere crater show fine-scale details of more recent gullies, adding evidence that they were carved by flowing water.

"In this opening phase we have tested the instruments, and they are working perfectly," said Dr. Steve Saunders, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter program scientist at NASA Headquarters, Washington. "The teams are getting amazing science data. They are ready to fulfill the mission's science objectives and to support other Mars missions. One image is already helping the Mars Exploration Rover team choose a route to explore Victoria Crater. Others will help guide the selection of a safe site for the future Phoenix Mars Lander."

In Chasma Boreale, a vast valley that juts into the north polar ice cap, the orbiter's spectrometer sees layers that vary in soil composition and in how much ice is mixed with the soil. A dark underlying layer contains little ice, but just beneath it lies ice-rich material resembling higher layers. The spectrometer takes pictures both in visible-light and infrared wavelengths useful for identifying what a target is made of.

user posted image
Image above: This enhanced-color view
shows gullies in an unnamed crater in the
Terra Sirenum region of Mars. It is a sub-
image from a larger view imaged by the High
Resolution Imaging Science Experiment
(HiRISE) camera on NASA's Mars
Reconnaissance Orbiter on Oct. 3, 2006.
Image credit: NASA/JPL/Univ. of Arizona
+ Full image and caption


"You see more-ice-rich and less-ice-rich layers, which tells you that conditions changed from the time one layer was deposited to the time another layer was deposited," said Dr. Scott Murchie of Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, Md. Murchie is the principal investigator for the spectrometer on the spacecraft. "These layers are geologically young -- on the order of thousands or millions of years -- and may hold clues about climate cycles."

A lower-latitude target was Mawrth Vallis. The European Mars Express spacecraft previously discovered ancient deposits of clay minerals that could form only if water were present for a long time at Mawrth Vallis. The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter's spectrometer has resolved smaller-scale compositional features and detected differing clay mineral content. The clay-rich areas show some of the best evidence for conditions possibly favorable for life on ancient Mars, Murchie said.

The mission's High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment camera has shown unprecedented detail in orbital images of Mars. An example was released recently showing the Opportunity rover at Victoria Crater. The camera imaged 64 areas on Mars during the testing week. "These images are truly beautiful, and since they resolve features the size of people, you can visualize yourself hiking around in these diverse terrains," said the camera's principal investigator, Dr. Alfred McEwen of the University of Arizona, Tucson.

The high-resolution camera, the imaging spectrometer and the orbiter's wider-looking Context Camera all observed Mawrth Vallis. Details visible in the new observations, such as small channels, are consistent with past wet conditions, McEwen said.

Another observation of an unnamed southern crater shows relatively young gullies, like those seen in many Mars locations viewed by NASA's Mars Global Surveyor orbiter. Braided channels characteristic of sediment-rich streams are visible in the new observations. This reinforces the interpretation that these geologically young gullies formed at least in part from erosion by flowing water. Original discovery of the many geologically young gullies on Martian slopes was by Dr. Michael Malin of Malin Space Science Systems, San Diego.

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. For more information, visit http://www.nasa.gov/mro.


Media contacts: Guy Webster 818-354-6278
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

Erica Hupp 202-358-1237
NASA Headquarters, Washington

2006-131


Source: NASA - Missions - MRO

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Part of Mawrth Vallis


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A portion of the Mawrth Vallis region of Mars is seen in this image from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The Mawrth Vallis region holds special interest because of the presence of phyllosilicate (clay) minerals which form only if water is available, first identified in data from the OMEGA spectrometer on the European Space Agency's Mars Express orbiter. Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter's Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars has identified aluminum-rich and iron-rich clays, each with a unique distribution. On Earth such clays occur in (among other environments) weathered volcanic rocks and hydrothermal systems, where volcanic activity and water interact.

Besides acquiring monochromatic images of 6-kilometer (3.7-mile) swath width and variable length, HiRISE can also image the central 20 percent of the swath width in color. Color images can help resolve ambiguities in image interpretation and will enable researchers to place compositional data from other experiments into more specific geologic context. HiRISE can "see" color in the visible range (the red, green, and blue portions of the spectrum) and beyond (in the near infrared).

Image TRA_000847_2055 was taken by HiRISE on Oct. 1, 2006. The image is centered at 25.3 degrees latitude, 340.7 degrees east longitude. The range to the target site was 284 kilometers (178 miles). At this distance the image scale is 28 centimeters (11 inches) per pixel (with 1 x 1 binning) so objects about 84 centimeters (33 inches) across are resolved. The image shown here has been map-projected to 25 centimeters (10 inches) per pixel and north is up. The image was taken at a local Mars time of 3:23 p.m. and the scene is illuminated from the west with a solar incidence angle of 46.2 degrees, thus the sun was about 43.8 degrees above the horizon. At a solar longitude of 114.4 degrees, the season on Mars is northern summer.

Image credit: NASA/JPL/Univ. of Arizona

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Source: NASA - Missions - MRO

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Crater Edge in Terra Sirenum


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This region of Mars in this image from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter receives very little sunlight in the southern Mars winter, when this was taken. The bluish areas consist of frost. At the latitude of this image, frost is most likely composed of water because the temperature is not low enough for carbon dioxide condensation. The reddish regions are locations where frost has been removed, most likely by sublimation. The dark, unfrosted regions (for example, in the channel of the gully on the far right) represent the most recent activity in the gullies and are possibly a result of seasonal melting.

Besides acquiring monochromatic images of 6-kilometer (3.7-mile) swath width and variable length, HiRISE can also image the central 20 percent of the swath width in color. Color images can help resolve ambiguities in image interpretation and will enable researchers to place compositional data from other experiments into more specific geologic context. HiRISE can "see" color in the visible range (the red, green, and blue portions of the spectrum) and beyond (in the near infrared), thus allowing for the detection of -- among other features -- characteristic alteration minerals that require water to form.

Image TRA_000878_1410 was taken by the HiRISE camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft on Oct. 3, 2006. The complete image is centered at minus 38.9 degrees latitude, 223.7 degrees east longitude. The range to the target site was 254 kilometers (159 miles). At this distance the image scale is 51 centimeters (20 inches) per pixel (with 2 x 2 binning) so objects about 153 centimeters (60 inches) across are resolved. The image shown here has been map-projected to 50 centimeters (19.7 inches) per pixel and north is up. The image was taken at a local Mars time of 3:38 p.m. and the scene is illuminated from the west with a solar incidence angle of 79.9 degrees, thus the sun was about 10.1 degrees above the horizon. At a solar longitude of 115.5 degrees, the season on Mars is northern summer.

Image credit: NASA/JPL/Univ. of Arizona

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Chasma Boreale in the North Polar Region


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This shows a Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM) full-resolution “targeted image" of the edge of Mars' north polar cap. The region in the image, Chasma Boreale, is a valley several kilometers or miles deep that cuts about 400 kilometers (about 250 miles) into the edge of the cap.

This image was acquired at 0851 UTC (4:51 a.m. EDT) on Oct. 1, 2006, near 84.6 degrees north latitude, 3.6 degrees east longitude. It covers an area about 13 kilometers (8 miles) long and, at the narrowest point, about 9 kilometers (5.6 miles) wide. At the center of the image the spatial resolution is as good as 18 meters (60 feet) per pixel. The image was taken in 544 colors covering wavelengths of 0.36 to 3.92 micrometers. Two renderings of the data are shown here, both draped over topography without vertical exaggeration, and then viewed from a perspective diagonally above the site. The top view is an approximately true-color representation. The bottom view, constructed from infrared wavelengths, shows strength of the spectral signature of ice. Brighter areas are rich in ice, and dark areas have little ice.

The polar cap has long been recognized to contain layers composed of dust and ice, and hence has been named the polar layered deposit. This sits atop an underlying "basal unit." The upper part of the basal unit is dark at visible wavelengths and steeply sloped, whereas the lower part of the basal unit is brighter, redder, and layered like the polar layered deposits. The chasma floor is cratered, and in the foreground it is covered by dunes that are outliers of a north polar sand sea that surrounds the polar cap. The polar layered deposits and the basal unit form a steeply sloping scarp about 1.1 kilometers (0.7 miles) high.

CRISM's image of this region shows a number of previously unrecognized characteristics of the polar layered deposits and the basal unit. First, the ice-rich polar layered deposits exhibit coherent banding both at visible and infrared wavelengths. This banding shows a history of differences in the abundance of dust that accumulated in polar ice, differences in ice grain size, or both. Second, both parts of the basal unit are depleted in ice, except for triangle-shaped regions on the side of the scarp. Third, the spectral properties of the brighter, layered lower basal unit resemble those of the polar layered deposits. In contrast, the upper basal unit is distinct from both of them. Finally, spectral properties of the foreground dunes closely resemble those of the darkest layers within the upper basal unit, and may be debris from it.

CRISM is one of six science instruments on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Led by The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, the CRISM team includes expertise from universities, government agencies and small businesses in the United States and abroad.

CRISM's mission: Find the spectral fingerprints of aqueous and hydrothermal deposits and map the geology, composition and stratigraphy of surface features. The instrument will also watch the seasonal variations in Martian dust and ice aerosols, and water content in surface materials — leading to new understanding of the climate.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, manages the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter mission for the NASA Science Mission Directorate. Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, is the prime contractor and built the spacecraft.

Image credit: NASA/JPL/JHUAPL

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Source: NASA - Missions - MRO

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Gullies in Sirenum Terra, Mars


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This enhanced-color view shows gullies in an unnamed crater in the Terra Sirenum region of Mars. It is a sub-image from a larger view imaged by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter on Oct. 3, 2006. This scene is about 254 meters (about 830 feet) wide. The upper and left regions of this scene are in shadow, yet color variations are still apparent. The high signal to noise ratio of the HiRISE camera allows for colors to be distinguished in shadows. This allows dark features to be identified as true albedo features versus topographical features.

Image credit: NASA/JPL/Univ. of Arizona

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Diversity in Mawrth Region, Mars


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This view shows diverse materials and morphologies in the region south of Mawrth Vallis on Mars. The color is composed of infrared, red, and blue-green color images, and has been enhanced to accentuate the color differences. The bright material may be rich in clays and date back to a time when Mars had a wetter environment. This is a sub-image of a larger view imaged by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter on Oct. 1, 2006. The resolution is 25 centimeters (10 inches) per pixel, and the scene is 352 meters (385 yards) wide.

Image credit: NASA/JPL/Univ. of Arizona

+ High resolution image


Source: NASA - Missions - MRO

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North Polar Layers, Mars


user posted image

This view shows the basal layers of Mars' north polar layered deposits. The floor of Chasma Boreale is at the bottom of the image. This is a sub-image of a larger view imaged by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter on Oct. 1, 2006. The resolution is 64 centimeters (25 inches) per pixel, and the scene is 568 meters (621 yards) wide.

Image credit: NASA/JPL/Univ. of Arizona

+ High resolution image


Source: NASA - Missions - MRO

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