NASA/JPL/Malin Space Science Systems
This Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC) image shows eroded, stair-stepped layers in the south polar region of Mars. These layers have been considered, for the past three decades, to consist of a mixture of dust and ice. The Mars Polar Lander (MPL) mission was designed to test this hypothesis. However, sadly, MPL was lost during descent in December 1999. This exposure of south polar layered material is located near 86.3°S, 187.7°W. The image covers an area 3 km (1.9 mi) wide and is illuminated by sunlight from the upper 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.