Mars Orbiter Sees Rover Tracks Among Thousands of New Images

MEDIA RELATIONS OFFICE JET PROPULSION LABORATORY CALIFORNIA INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION
PASADENA, CALIF. 91109 TELEPHONE (818) 354-5011 http://www.jpl.nasa.gov /
Guy Webster (818) 354-6278 Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
Donald Savage (202) 358-1547 NASA Headquarters, Washington, D.C.
IMAGE ADVISORY: 2004-238 September 27, 2004
Mars Orbiter Sees Rover Tracks Among Thousands of New Images
NASA's Mars Global Surveyor, starting its third mission extension this week after seven years of orbiting Mars, is using an innovative technique to capture pictures even sharper than most of the more than 170,000 it has already produced.
One dramatic example from the spacecraft's Mars Orbiter Camera shows wheel tracks of NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Spirit and the rover itself. Another tells scientists that no boulders bigger than about 1 to 2 meters (3 to 7 feet) are exposed in giant ripples created by a catastrophic flood.
Those examples are available online at
http://www.msss.com/mars_images/moc/2004/09/27/ and http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/mgs .
In addition, about 24,000 newly catalogued images that Mars Global Surveyor took between October 2003 and March 2004 have been added to the Mars Orbiter Camera Image Gallery at ttp://www.msss.com/moc_gallery/ . These include additional pictures of the Mars Exploration Rover sites seen from orbit.
"Over the past year and a half, the camera and spacecraft teams for Mars Global Surveyor have worked together to develop a technique that allows us to roll the entire spacecraft so that the camera can be scanned in a way that sees details at three times higher resolution than we normally get," said Dr. Ken Edgett, staff scientist for Malin Space Science Systems, San Diego, Calif., which built and operates the Mars Orbiter Camera. The technique adjusts the rotation rate of the spacecraft to match the ground speed under the camera.
"The image motion compensation is tricky and the spacecraft does not always hit its target. However, when it does, the results can be spectacular," Edgett said.
The Mars Orbiter Camera acquires the highest resolution images ever obtained from a Mars-orbiting spacecraft. During normal operating conditions, the smallest objects that can be resolved on the martian surface in these images are about 4 to 5 meters (13 to 16 feet) across. With the adjusted-rotation technique, called "compensated pitch and roll targeted observation," objects as small as 1.5 meters (4.9 feet) can be seen in images from the same camera. Resolution capability of 1.4 meters (4.6 feet) per pixel is improved to one-half meter (1.6 feet) per pixel. Because the maneuvers are complex and the amount of data that can be acquired is limited, most images from the camera are still taken without using that technique.
Mars Global Surveyor began orbiting Mars on Sept. 12, 1997. After gradually adjusting the shape of its orbit, it began systematically mapping the planet in March 1999. The Mars Orbiter Camera's narrow-angle camera has now examined nearly 4.5 percent of Mars' surface, including extensive imaging of candidate and selected landing sites for surface missions. The Mars Orbiter Camera also includes a wide-angle camera that observes the entire planet daily.
"Mars Global Surveyor has been productive longer than any other spacecraft ever sent to Mars, since it surpassed Viking Lander 1's longevity earlier this year and has returned more images than all past Mars missions combined," said Tom Thorpe, project manager for Mars Global Surveyor at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. The mission will complete its 25,000th mapping orbit on Oct. 11.
Principal goals for the orbiter's latest mission extension, beginning Oct. 1, include continued weather monitoring to form a continuous set of observations with NASA's next Mars mission, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, scheduled to reach the red planet in 2006; imaging of possible landing sites for the Phoenix 2007 Mars Scout lander and 2009 Mars Science Laboratory rover; continued mapping and analysis of key sedimentary-rock outcrop sites; and continued monitoring of changes on the surface due to wind and ice. Because the narrow-angle camera has imaged only a small fraction of the surface, new discoveries about surface features are likely to come at any time. The extension runs two years, through September 2006, with a budget of $7.5 million per year.
Dr. James Garvin, NASA's chief scientist for Mars and the Moon, said, "Mars Global Surveyor continues to catalyze new science as it explores Mars at scales compatible with those that our Mars Exploration Rovers negotiate every day, and its extended mission will continue to set the stage for upcoming observations by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter."
Additional information about Mars Global Surveyor is available online at: http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/mgs/ . In addition to semi-annual releases of large collections of archived pictures, the Mars Orbiter Camera team posts a new image daily and last year began soliciting public suggestions for camera targets on Mars. These materials can be viewed online at http://www.msss.com . For more information about NASA and other space science programs on the Internet, visit http://www.nasa.gov/ .
JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Mars Global Surveyor mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. JPL's industrial partner is Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, which built and operates the spacecraft.
- end -
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On Mon, 27 Sep 2004 12:17:30 -0700, Ron wrote:

The photo is so cool! Amazing.
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Resolution of 50 cms per pixel for Mars! Excellent.
The highest resolution routinely available from NOAA satellites orbiting Earth is 250 metres per pixel (Modis). It would be nice to see pictures of Earth to resolution of 50 cms per pixel. Landsat? But I can't find anything on internet.
All I want to do is check on some damaged tiles on the roof of my house - very hard to see from the ground. A "Mars Orbiter" would be ideal.
Jack
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Kinda makes you wonder how good spy satellites are huh? Who originally thought of this technique? is the pentagon going to get pissy at NASA for publicizing what's pretty much a software upgrade? or is this something that's finally been declassified? No doubt you need a pretty clever bunch of guys to run the orbiter correctly... Maybe not, and who knows if China's orbiting beer cans with Kodak DISC cameras in them could benefit... but who cares, those are damn cool! Have the Britts been calling to have images done of where the beagle supposedly had landed? At that resolution, you could practically watch a baseball game from space - or at least see the runners...
Andy

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Not good enough to see Osama. Then you have to consider the terapixels of images you have to study at centimenters resolution.
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Shame they can't find Beagle with it.
George
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Not sure that they would learn anything even if they did spot it like they did the rover. We know that it hit Mars somewhere. But we wouldn't be able to tell if it landed upside down or hit like Genesis did in Utah.
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Has there been any updates on Genesis? Did they manage to recover anything useful or was it a total loss?
I have tried searching the Net for news, but have not been successful.
Regards
Paul Blake
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You could get it from the horse's mouth:
http://genesismission.jpl.nasa.gov /
Latest: http://genesismission.jpl.nasa.gov/mission/MIBstatus_report2.html
Genesis Team Ships First Samples
The Genesis team has shipped its first scientific sample from the mission's specially constructed cleanroom at the U.S. Army Proving Ground in Dugway, Utah. The sample, containing what are known as "lid foils," was attached to the interior lid of the Genesis sample return capsule.
"This is the first batch in what we are growing more confident will be many more scientifically valuable samples," said Genesis Project Manager Don Sweetnam of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. "It appears that we have recovered about 75 to 80 percent of these lid foils. A great deal of credit has to go to the dedicated men and women of Genesis who continue to do very precise, detailed work out there in the Utah desert."
--
Hud Nordin < snipped-for-privacy@pobox.com> Silicon Valley

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You can tell that MERs (rovers) successfully opened up by its color pattern of pixels. It has a black middle and white outer petals and outer white collapsed ballons. Although this only just parts of 5-8 pixels alotgether, it is diagnostic. You can also imprive the resolution slightly by combining images from multiple passes. Proper registration of the pixels is tricky.
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Jack Harrison wrote:

Spysats are at least this good if not better. Spysats the size of Hubble must be quite good. The atmosphere astronomers complain about blurring their astro pictures probably don't bother the spy sat guys, as sunlight on the items of interest on the ground allow quick exposure settings in the cameras of the spy sats. Before the atmosphere wiggles. Even at night adaptive optics should be able to clean up the atmospheric wiggles enough to see stuff. Someone who knows the physics of optics for telescopes can probably make a very good guess of the resolution one could get with say a 1 meter reflector spy telescope. But the other guys will just do their dirty work inside buildings or underground...
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Robert Casey wrote:

I find it highly amusing that people leave small towns because everyone knows their business, get educated, go to big cities, invent wondrous technology in order that they can spy on people and learn their business. We're apparently not happy unless we're under surveillance.
Ain't humans grand? *|;-)
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Sure, if the Department of Defense wanted to know if you had a backyard barbicue last weekend. But they should be able to know what an emeny is up to...
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Robert Casey wrote:

Sure, it's not very difficult. Assuming the following: - No atmospheric distortion (or perfect correction) - an altitude of about 500km (slightly lower than Hubble, but we're talking ballpark figures here) - a 1 meter primary mirror
then the resolving power is as follows: Resolving power in seconds of arc is 115/D (with D = diameter in millimeters), so here this would be 0.115 arc-seconds 1 arc second at 500 km = 500/206625 = 2.4 meters so the max. resolving power of this scope would be 2.4*0.115 = 27.8 cm, or about 11 inches for the Imperial-minded person.
The Hubble-telescope has a 2.4m mirror, wich would result in approx. 11.5 cm resolving power, or 4.5 inches.
Basically, the laws of physics prevent the military from putting up a spysat that can read license-plates or military insignia, because that would require far too large a mirror to be launchable using existing rockets.
1cm resolving power at 1000km (remember, looking straight down won't show license plates :-) would require a telescope with a 50 meter mirror, something which would be somewhat noticeable if orbiting the earth...

But... think of the children, why won't anybody think of the children!!!
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Rumor has it at certain times specified spy satilites were in such a position to where they only looked out into space. The operators snapped what they thought were a few cool Pic's that eventually were shown to a few select members of the astronomy community. "Shazam Batman", the rest is history.
Needless to say Hubble was designed/built by a different group, with a few hints here/there, than built the spy satellites. This is why the original mirror was flawed. Ralph Nesbitt
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THAT IS NOT WHY THE "ORIGINAL MIRROR" WAS FLAWED! IT WAS A COMBINATION OF A CHANGE MADE BY A WORKER AND A DECISION TO FORGO THE $30M COST OF A PARALLEL TESTING SYSTEM INDEPENDANT OF THE ONE USED DURING GRINDING. YOUR POST SUGGESTS THAT THERE IS A NEW MIRROR INSTALLED. THE SAME ONE IS STILL THERE BUT WITH A DIFFERENT SECONDARY FOCUSING SYSTEM THAT COMPENSATES FOR THE MAIN MIRROR ERRORS.
Z
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few
original
A
PARALLEL
MAIN
To be clear, Hubble was designed/built by a different group/organization/company than built the spysats. The group/organization/company that built the Spysats gave the Hubble group hints on how to design/build Hubble, but were not directly involved. The purpose of this was to appear Hubble was a civilian project with no connection to Spysats to hide the Spysats capability.
You are correct re: the mirror flaw & causes. You are also correct re: the refocusing system.
My original point re: how Hubble came to be was because Spysat operators snapped what they thought were a few cool Pic's of things at a resolution previously unheard of that were shown to selected astronomers. These astronomers were amazed & started pushing to use the Spysats one they found the source of the Pic's. The group/organization running the Spysat's refused. This refusal eventually resulted in the astronomers getting Hubble.
Hubble has been responsible for many known discoveries. No doubt as Hubble data is reviewed other significant discoveries will be made. It will be sad to see Hubble allowed to self destruct. Ralph Nesbitt
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