NASA/JPL/Malin Space Science Systems
Excitement builds as the first Mars Exploration Rover (MER-A), Spirit, prepares to land on Mars just after 8:35 p.m. Pacific Standard Time today, 3 January 2004 (04:35, 4 January 2004 UTC). Today's Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC) picture is a mosaic of MOC images of the Spirit landing site. The rover is expected to land somewhere within the approximately 83 km (~52 mi) long by ~10 km (~6 mi) wide ellipse on the floor of Gusev Crater. Clicking on the image above will show a map of the landing site at 25 meters (82 feet) per pixel. MOC has acquired 71 pictures of the landing site over a period spanning 3 Mars years (from July 1999 through December 2003), and more than 85 pictures were acquired within Gusev Crater specifically to support the Mars Exploration Rover landing site selection process. These pictures were acquired not only in different years, but in different seasons, so the illumination angle, overall brightness, and patterns of ephemeral, dark dust devil streaks and wind streaks are different from image to image within the mosaic. In areas where no MOC coverage exists, gaps were filled using images from the Mars Odyssey Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS) visible imager, a lower-resolution camera built by Malin Space Science Systems and operated by Arizona State University. The Gusev Crater landing ellipse is centered near 14.8°S, 184.8°W. Sunlight illuminates each image in the mosaic from the left (in some cases, upper left, in others, lower left).
Spirit will land at about 2 p.m. local time on Mars. At the same time, Mars Global Surveyor will pass over the site and listen for a transmission of Spirit's entry, descent, and landing data. These data will be relayed back to Earth by the MOC. For more information about the Mars Exploration Rovers, visit NASA/JPL's Mars Exploration Program Web site. For more information about the work that Malin Space Science Systems and MGS MOC are doing in support of the rover missions, see: http://www.msss.com/mer_mission/. For information about how MSSS will use this mosaic of the landing site to help find Spirit after it touches down, see Finding MERs. For a 10 meter per pixel view of the landing site mosaic, download this (BIG!!) 27.4 MByte file: 2004.01.03.gusev10m.gif.
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.