Mars Global Surveyor
Mars Orbiter Camera

MGS MOC Images of Mars Exploration Rover, Opportunity, on Mars

MGS MOC Release No. MOC2-631, 9 February 2004

1 February 2004 MOC ROTO image
1 February 2004 MOC ROTO image, features labeled
6 February 2004 cPROTO image
6 February 2004 cPROTO image, featured labeled

Parachute and Backshell from MGS MOC and Opportunity Pancam

Pancam image courtesy NASA/JPL/Cornell
Location of Opportunity site in original landing ellipse
All images, please credit: NASA/JPL/Malin Space Science Systems. The Pancam image (inset in Parachute and Backshell picture) is courtesy NASA/JPL/Cornell

This month, the Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC) acquired two images of the Mars Exploration Rover (MER-B), Opportunity, sitting within an impact crater of approximately 20 meters (~66 feet) diameter. The first picture (top two images, above) was obtained on 1 February 2004 at a resolution of about 1.5 meters (5 ft.) per pixel. The second view, at about 50 centimeters (~1.6 ft.) per pixel, was taken on 6 February 2004 (middle two images, above).

The 1 February 2004 image is a Roll-Only Targeted Observation (ROTO), it was acquired by rolling the MGS spacecraft approximately 22.7° off-nadir toward the west. The picture shows the location of the Opportunity lander within a 20 meter (~66 ft.) diameter crater on the dark plains of Meridiani. At the time the picture was taken, the rover had already driven off the lander. The image also shows several features related to the landing of Opportunity, which occurred on 25 January 2004. Just left of center is the location of the first bounce as Opportunity's airbags hit the ground. Just before the airbagged lander was released, rockets fired and disrupted the surface at that location. After the lander was released, the backshell and parachute drifted westward and landed at the site indicated. Meanwhile, the heatshield, which was ejected before the rockets fired and airbags inflated, impacted to the southwest of the "first bounce" location. The lander itself ended up in a nearby crater, within which the rover has been operating for just over two weeks. The image is illuminated from the left/lower left; north is up; and the 200 meter scale bar is about 656 feet long. Note that the large crater on the right-center side of the image, and the crater in which the Opportunity lander sits, both have a wind streak, somewhat brighter than the general Meridiani plains, pointing toward the lower right (southeast). These wind streaks indicate that the dominant winds blow through the region from the northwest (upper left).

The 6 February 2004 image was a Pitch-and-Roll Targeted Observation with planetary motion compensation (cPROTO). In this case, the MGS spacecraft was pointed about 18.7° off-nadir (toward the east) and pitched at a rate that allowed a resolution of approximately 50 cm (~1.6 ft.) per pixel resolution. Developed in 2003, the cPROTO technique is still fairly new and the images do not always hit exactly where the MOC team plans. The first cPROTO attempt to view the Opportunity lander was acquired on 30 January 2004 but it missed by more than 3 km (1.9 miles). The second attempt was made on 6 February 2004, and it hit the crater that contains the lander and rover (middle two images, above), but it did not get the backshell, parachute, first bounce, or heatshield features. On 6 February 2004, the Opportunity rover had moved sufficient distance from the lander (to investigate the rock outcrop area known as "Snout") that it could almost be seen as a separate, dark object (middle images, above). The image is illuminated from the left/lower left; north is up; and the 10 meter scale bar is about 33 feet long.

The second-to-last image (bottom left, above) shown here is a composite of the Opportunity Pancam view of the MER-B parachute and backshell (color inset) and the 1 February 2004 MOC image that shows the distance to the parachute and backshell from the landing site. This distance is 440 meters, equivalent to about 481 yards (nearly 5 football fields; 1,444 feet). The Pancam image appears courtesy of NASA/JPL/Cornell.

The last image (bottom, right, above) shows a mosaic of MGS MOC and Mars Odyssey Thermal Emission Imaging System visible (THEMIS-VIS) images of the Opportunity landing ellipse. The arrow in the small image shown above points to the location of the Opportunity lander. The large image (click on the small image) presents a circle enclosing the crater in which the lander is located. The white ellipse is about 87 km (54 mi) long and 11 km (6.8 mi.) wide, north is up.

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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.

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