Quantcast

One Mars Orbiter Takes Photos of Other Orbiters

May 19, 2005

JPL — Photographs from NASA’s Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft released today are the first pictures ever taken of a spacecraft orbiting a foreign planet by another spacecraft orbiting that planet.

Mars Global Surveyor has been orbiting Mars since 1997, Mars Odyssey since 2001. Both are managed for NASA by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif. Mars Express has been in orbit since late 2003.

Mars Express was passing about 155 miles away when the Mars Orbiter Camera on Mars Global Surveyor photographed it on April 20. The next day, the camera caught Mars Odyssey passing 56 to 84 miles away.

All three spacecraft are moving at almost 7,000 miles per hour, and at 62 miles distance the field-of-view of the Mars Orbiter Camera is only 830 yards across. If timing had been off by only a few seconds, the images would have been blank.

The images were obtained by the Mars Global Surveyor operations teams at Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver; JPL and Malin Space Science Systems.

Images and Captions

Image 1: Mars Odyssey From Two Distances in One Image — NASA’s Mars Odyssey spacecraft appears twice in the same frame in this image from the Mars Orbiter Camera aboard NASA’s Mars Global Surveyor. The camera’s successful imaging of Odyssey and of the European Space Agency’s Mars Express in April 2005 produced the first pictures of any spacecraft orbiting a foreign planet taken by another spacecraft orbiting that planet.

Mars Global Surveyor and Mars Odyssey are both in nearly circular, near-polar orbits. Odyssey is in an orbit slightly higher than that of Global Surveyor in order to preclude the possibility of a collision. However, the two spacecraft occasionally come as close together as 15 kilometers (9 miles).

The images were obtained by the Mars Global Surveyor operations teams at Lockheed Martin Space System, Denver; JPL and Malin Space Science Systems.

The two views of Mars Odyssey in this image were acquired a little under 7.5 seconds apart as Odyssey receded from a close flyby of Mars Global Surveyor. The geometry of the flyby, seen at http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/figures/PIA07941_fig1.jpg, and the camera’s way of acquiring an image line-by-line resulted in the two views of Odyssey in the same frame.

The first view (right) was taken when Odyssey was about 90 kilometers (56 miles) from Global Surveyor and moving more rapidly than Global Surveyor was rotating, as seen from Global Surveyor. A few seconds later, Odyssey was farther away — about 135 kilometers (84 miles) — and appeared to be moving more slowly. In this second view of Odyssey (left), the Mars Orbiter Camera’s field-of-view overtook Odyssey.

The Mars Orbiter Camera can resolve features on the surface of Mars as small as a few meters or yards across from Mars Global Surveyor’s orbital altitude of 350 to 405 kilometers (217 to 252 miles). From a distance of 100 kilometers (62 miles), the camera would be able to resolve features substantially smaller than 1 meter or yard across.

Mars Odyssey was launched on April 7, 2001, and reached Mars on Oct. 24, 2001. Mars Global Surveyor left Earth on Nov. 7, 1996, and arrived in Mars orbit on Sept. 12, 1997. Both orbiters are in an extended mission phase, both have relayed data from the Mars Exploration Rovers, and both are continuing to return exciting new results from Mars. JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, manages both missions for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washingon, D.C.

Image 2: Mars Odyssey Seen by Mars Global Surveyor — This view is an enlargement of an image of NASA’s Mars Odyssey spacecraft taken by the Mars Orbiter Camera aboard NASA’s Mars Global Surveyor while the two spacecraft were about 90 kilometers (56 miles) apart. The camera’s successful imaging of Odyssey and of the European Space Agency’s Mars Express in April 2005 produced the first pictures of any spacecraft orbiting a foreign planet taken by another spacecraft orbiting that planet.

Mars Global Surveyor and Mars Odyssey are both in nearly circular, near-polar orbits. Odyssey is in an orbit slightly higher than that of Global Surveyor in order to preclude the possibility of a collision. However, the two spacecraft occasionally come as close together as 15 kilometers (9 miles).

The images were obtained by the Mars Global Surveyor operations teams at Lockheed Martin Space System, Denver; JPL and Malin Space Science Systems.

The Mars Orbiter Camera can resolve features on the surface of Mars as small as a few meters or yards across from Mars Global Surveyor’s orbital altitude of 350 to 405 kilometers (217 to 252 miles). From a distance of 100 kilometers (62 miles), the camera would be able to resolve features substantially smaller than 1 meter or yard across.

The components of Mars Odyssey when viewed from the same angle as this image can be seen in a computer drawing, http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/figures/PIA07942_fig1.jpg, and an annotated computer drawing, http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/figures/PIA07942_fig2.jpg, of Odyssey.

Mars Odyssey was launched on April 7, 2001, and reached Mars on Oct. 24, 2001. Mars Global Surveyor left Earth on Nov. 7, 1996, and arrived in Mars orbit on Sept. 12, 1997. Both orbiters are in an extended mission phase, both have relayed data from the Mars Exploration Rovers, and both are continuing to return exciting new results from Mars. JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, manages both missions for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washingon, D.C.

Image 3: Mars Express Seen by Mars Global Surveyor — This picture of the European Space Agency’s Mars Express spacecraft by the Mars Orbiter Camera on NASA’s Mars Global Surveyor is from the first successful imaging of any spacecraft orbiting a foreign planet taken by another spacecraft orbiting that planet. The picture is a composite of two views of Mars Express that Mars Orbiter Camera acquired on April 20, 2005, from distances of about 250 and 370 kilometers (155 and 229 miles).

Owing to the large distance between Mars Global Surveyor and Mars Express when the two views could be acquired and to a substantial cross-track component of apparent motion for which no correction could be made, Mars Express appears in the image as a narrow blur rather than as a well-defined spacecraft. It appears in the image to be about 1.5 meters in the small dimension and 15 meters in the long dimension, which is consistent with the viewing distance, pixel scale, and encounter geometry.

The components of Mars Express when viewed from the same angle as this image can be seen in an artist’s rendition, http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/figures/PIA07944_fig1.jpg, and an annotated rendition, http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/figures/PIA07944_fig2.jpg, of the spacecraft.

Mars Express was launched on June 3, 2003, and reached Mars on Dec. 25, 2003. Mars Global Surveyor left Earth on Nov. 7, 1996, and arrived in Mars orbit on Sept. 12, 1997. JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, manages Mars Global Surveyor for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washingon, D.C.

—–

On the Net:

NASA

Jet Propulsion Lab

Malin Space Science Systems

Mars Odyssey

Mars Express

Mars Global Surveyor


One Mars Orbiter Takes Photos of Other Orbiters One Mars Orbiter Takes Photos of Other Orbiters One Mars Orbiter Takes Photos of Other Orbiters


comments powered by Disqus