Mars Polar Lander
Mars Descent Imager (MARDI)

Simulated View of Possible Polar Lander Site

MPL MARDI Release No. MARDI99-01, 1 December 1999


Mars Polar Lander will arrive in the south polar region on December 3, 1999. The lander carries a camera that will take pictures during the final two minutes of the descent. These dramatic views will show the martian surface getting closer, and closer, and closer...until the vehicle has safely landed (Note: the spacecraft must land safely to get the pictures back). The artwork on the right shows the location of Mars Descent Imager (MARDI) that will take these pictures.

On the left is a preview of what the polar landing site might look like from a few hundred meters (several football fields) altitude above the surface. This computer-generated view looks across the polar layered terrain and towards the horizon. It was generated using pictures taken over the past several months by the Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC). The landing site topography was determined by using a shape-from-shading (photoclinometry) computer program to examine a MOC image of a uniformly-frost covered section of Mars Polar Lander's landing site. That same image was then used in the computer to provide additional surface detail. This view looks south-southeast across an area of ridged and rugged terrain within Mars Polar Lander's landing ellipse. The horizon is about 10 km (6 miles) away. The illumination was chosen to approximate what will be seen during the Polar Lander's descent on Friday. Real pictures from the Mars Descent Imager are scheduled to be returned over the weekend (December 3-6, 1999).

Image Credits:

MSSS Image Use Policy

Malin Space Science Systems built the MARDI and operates the camera from its facilities in San Diego, CA. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Mars Surveyor Operations Project operates the Mars Polar Lander spacecraft with its industrial partner, Lockheed Martin Astronautics, from facilities in Pasadena, CA and Denver, CO. The Mars Volatiles and Climate Surveyor (MVACS) science payload is operated from a facility at the University of California, Los Angeles.