NASA/JPL/Malin Space Science Systems
The Marte Vallis system, located east of Cerberus and west of Amazonis Planitia, is known for its array of broken, platy flow features. This Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC) image shows a close-up view of some of these plates; they appear to be like puzzle pieces that have been broken apart and moved away from each other. The Mars science community has been discussing these features for the past several years---either the flows in Marte Vallis are lava flows, or mud flows. In either case, the material was very fluid and had a thin crust on its surface. As the material continued to flow through the valley system, the crust broke up into smaller plates that were then rafted some distance down the valley. This picture is located near 6.9°N, 182.8°W. It is illuminated by sunlight from the left.
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.