NASA/JPL/Malin Space Science Systems
Today, 12 September 2004, the Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC) team celebrates 7 Earth years orbiting Mars. MGS first reached the red planet and performed its critical orbit insertion burn on 12 September 1997. Over the past 7 years, MOC has returned over 170,000 images; its narrow angle camera has covered about 4.5% of the surface, and its wide angle cameras have viewed 100% of the planet nearly every day.
At this time, MOC is not acquiring data because Mars is on the other side of the Sun relative to Earth. This period, known as Solar Conjunction, occurs about once every 26 months. During Solar Conjunction, no radio communications from spacecraft that are orbiting or have landed on Mars can be received. MOC was turned off on 7 September and is expected to resume operations on 25 September 2004, when Mars re-emerges from behind the Sun.
The rotating color image of Mars shown here was compiled from MOC red and blue wide angle daily global images acquired exactly 1 Mars year ago on 26 October 2002 (Ls 86.4°). In other words, Mars today (12 September 2004) should look about the same as the view provided here. Presently, Mars is in very late northern spring, and the north polar cap has retreated almost to its summer configuration. Water ice clouds form each afternoon at this time of year over the large volcanoes in the Tharsis and Elysium regions. A discontinuous belt of clouds forms over the martian equator; it is most prominent north of the Valles Marineris trough system. In the southern hemisphere, it is late autumn and the giant Hellas Basin floor is nearly white with seasonal frost cover. The south polar cap is not visible, it is enveloped in seasonal darkness. The northern summer and southern winter seasons will begin on 20 September 2004.
Other Mars Rotation Movie Viewing Options:
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.