Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) first began to orbit the red planet six years ago today on 12 September 1997. More than 120,000 Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC) images have been obtained, with the high resolution camera covering about 3% of the planet. Recently, in August 2003, the MOC team began accepting public suggestions for areas on Mars to be imaged by the high resolution camera. The goal of the MOC Public Target Request effort is to cast a wide net to enhance the science return of the experiment.
On 4 September 2003, MGS MOC acquired its first images that were suggested through the public target program. Shown here are two pictures, acquired at the same time by the MOC. The first (left) is the public-requested high resolution image obtained by MOC's narrow angle camera. The second (right) is a context image taken by MOC's red wide angle camera. The white box in the context image indicates the location of the high resolution view. In both of these images, north is toward the top/upper right and sunlight illuminates them from the lower left.
The image pair shows details of the summit caldera of the martian volcano, Pavonis Mons. The caldera formed by collapse as molten rock withdrew deep within the volcano, some time in the past. The high resolution image shows that the caldera floor and walls are presently covered by a thick (perhaps a meter/yard or more) mantle of textured dust. Dark dots are boulders that are poking out from within this dust mantle in several areas on the lower caldera wall. This image partially overlaps a previous, lower-resolution view of the caldera, thus providing a close-up view at 1.5 meters (5 feet) per pixel (see E10-01691 or a smaller sub-frame in E10-01691sub for the lower-resolution image).
Pavonis Mons stands about 14 km (8.7 mi) above the martian datum (0 elevation), or roughly 6 km (3.7 mi) above its surrounding terrain. The high resolution image covers an area 1.5 km (0.9 mi) across by about 9 km (5.6 mi) long; the context frame is about 115 km (71 mi) across and down. The high resolution image is located near the equator at 0.4°N, 112.8°W.
Suggestions for MOC images of Mars are collected through the Mars Orbiter Camera Target Request Site. Each request is checked by the MOC science/operations team, and then placed in a database where the request waits until some time in the future when the spacecraft is predicted to fly over the suggested location. Because the high resolution camera field of view is so small (maximum is 3 km --1.9 mi-- wide), any given request might wait for weeks, months, or even several years before it is overflown by the MGS spacecraft. Images received through this program will be placed online once per month at http://www.msss.com/mars_images/moc/publicresults/ -- the next group of public images is anticipated to be posted in mid/late October 2003.
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.