Mars Global Surveyor
Mars Orbiter Camera

The Northern Plains of Mars

MGS MOC Release No. MOC2-151, 19 July 1999


1.3 MByte gif -- 395 KByte gif


The story of the martian northern plains is one of burial and exhumation. While the northern plains are much less heavily cratered than the southern highlands of Mars, there are plenty of craters--and often they appear to have been buried and are now partly exhumed from beneath the materials that buried them. The plains often appear pitted and eroded. The origin of the materials that cover the northern plains is unknown and controversial. Over the years, some people have proposed that the plains are mantled by deposits similar to what is found in the polar caps, while other investigators have suggested that the plains were once flooded by large seas or a plains-covering ocean, and still others have thought that there might be volcanic material (such as lava flows) on these plains. Thus far, the Mars Global Surveyor Mars Orbiter Camera images have shown scenes much like the one above--craters that are partly exhumed from beneath layered and pitted material--which do not necessarily support (but also do not disprove) any of these earlier ideas. This image from the plains north of Arabia Terra was obtained in August 1998 and is illuminated from the right.


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, CA. 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, CA and Denver, CO.

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