NASA/JPL/Malin Space Science Systems
Beneath the ice caps of both martian poles lies extensive deposits of layered material. Whether the material includes ice is unknown. In the north polar region, some of the layers contain dark sand, others may consist of dust cemented by ice. The south polar layers are a little bit more challenging to understand. In most places, they have been covered by thin mantles of debris that mask the true nature of the layered material. This is the case, even in the Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC) image shown here. South polar layers were eroded to provide this spectacular view, but later the materials were almost uniformly covered with a material that, when the image is viewed at full resolution (click on image, above), has become cracked. This picture is located near 82.0°S, 72.4°W, and covers an area about 3 km (1.9 mi) wide. Sunlight illuminates the scene 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.