POWERFUL ORBITING CAMERA WILL SEND ITS FIRST VIEW OF MARS TO UA SOON
>From Lori Stiles, University Communications, 520-621-1877
- Monday, March 06, 2006
Alfred S. McEwen 520-621-4573 [email protected]
Eric Eliason 520-626-0764 [email protected]
Loretta McKibben 520-626-7432 [email protected]
HiROC Web site - http://hiroc.lpl.arizona.edu/
The most powerful camera ever to orbit Mars will relay its first images
the planet to scientists at Tucson's University of Arizona in about two
The High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera -- the
largest telescopic camera ever sent to another planet -- is flying
NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO).
Before the camera begins operating, however, MRO must go into orbit
the red planet.
MARCH 10 MARS ORBIT INSERTION 'WATCH PARTY'
MRO will fire its engine thrusters at 2:24 p.m. Mountain time Friday,
10, slowing to enter Mars' orbit. As this happens, HiRISE scientists
carefully monitor temperatures inside the camera to be sure that it
damaged by extreme heat or cold.
And you can see it happen.
Scientists, including HiRISE team leader Alfred S. McEwen, a professor
UA's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory (LPL), will describe the events as
unfold. The public is invited to join them at a "Mars Watch" party,
includes live mission coverage from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in
Pasadena, Calif., shown on large screen. Mars Watch will be held UA's
Space Sciences Building, Room 308, from 1 p.m. - 4 p.m. March 10.
They also will explain and demonstrate how they operate the HiRISE
from their science operations center, HiROC, at UA. More information
the watch party can be found online at
http://hiroc.lpl.arizona.edu/watchparty , or call 520-626-7432.
APRIL 8 'MARS MANIA II'
On April 8, LPL and HiRISE scientists will celebrate MRO's arrival at
during a public program, "Mars Mania II." The event will be 1 p.m. to 5
and 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. on the UA campus. Hands-on educational
are offered for youngsters, and adults are invited to a star party,
educational displays, and talks by Professor McEwen and other
Details on this Saturday event are available online at
http://hiroc.lpl.arizona.edu/marsmania. Contact Loretta McKibben,
520-626-7432, [email protected]
WEEK OF MARCH 20 - FIRST HiRISE IMAGES AT HiROC
<< EDITORS: Media are welcome at HiROC as the team views the camera's
images. For more information, contact HiRISE team member Loretta
520-626-7432, loretta @ lpl.arizona.edu, or Lori Stiles, University
Communications, 520-626-4402, [email protected] >>
HiRISE scientists will power the HiRISE camera the week of March 20,
will begin taking pictures 18 hours later. The HiRISE camera will take
pictures during two orbits. NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory mission
specialists will decide exactly which orbits will be HiRISE imaging
after Mars orbit insertion on March 10.
These will be the camera's only photos for the next six months because
will be turned off while the spacecraft "aerobrakes." This involves
repeatedly into the upper atmosphere to scrub off speed and drop into
successively more circular orbits.
The first images will be highly experimental because the team is trying
number of algorithms and systems for the first time, so things could go
wrong, McEwen said. "However, we are sure to learn important lessons
how to operate the spacecraft and HiRISE."
Also, the geometries of the early orbits may be less than ideal for the
HiRise camera's test-image swath. And there's a chance that atmospheric
or ice hazes could obscure the surface because it's early fall in the
The camera will take pictures of the middle latitudes of the southern
hemisphere, a region where many geologically recent gullies have been
gullies possibly carved by water. Researchers won't know the exact area
they'll photograph until the spacecraft is safely captured into orbit
The camera's first images will be taken when the MRO is flying between
about 2,500 miles and 600 miles (4,000 km and 1,000 km) above the
After aerobraking, the camera will fly just outside the planet's
at only 190 miles (about 300 km) above the surface.
Some of the camera's first targets next fall will be of potential
sites for UA's Phoenix Mission lander, which is slated to reach the
surface in May 2008. This Scout-class lander mission is led by LPL
Peter Smith. The Phoenix Mission will communicate with Earth using
These first images will reach UA at the HiRISE Operations Center
where scientists will be remotely controlling the camera. HiROC is in
P. Sonett Space Sciences Building, 1541 E. University Blvd, and its
operations include observation planning, uplink, downlink, instrument
monitoring, and data processing and analysis.
"The first views should be the sharpest, with minimal blurring from
spacecraft motions," said HiROC manager Eric Eliason. The second orbit
images, or "jitter" images, will be taken to show how vibrations from
spacecraft instruments affect HiRISE images, Eliason added.
"We want to acquire images of Mars that fill the 20,000-pixel wide
field-of-view so we can learn how to best process these huge images,"
said. "We'll acquire the images at altitudes higher than 1,000
(about 600 miles), so the resolution will be worse than a
scale, compared to the one-third meter-per-pixel resolution scale that
get in final orbit."
HiRISE: 'THE PEOPLE's CAMERA'
The HiROC team expects to process about 10,000 large-to-very-large,
high-resolution images during the 25-month-long primary mission.
Members of the public will be able to suggest some of the imaging
sites using special Web software that will be available in a few
this reason, the HiRise camera is called the "people's camera." All
will be released as soon as possible to the public and scientific
after they are processed.
The 145-pound (65 kg) HiRISE camera features a 20-inch (half-meter)
mirror. The $40 million camera, which was built by Ball Aerospace &
Technologies Corp. in Boulder, Co., will take ultra-sharp photographs
cover 3.5-mile-wide (6 kilometer) swaths of the Martian landscape.
Scientists will be able to see rocks and other geologic features in
photos that are as small as 40 inches (one meter) across.
The HiRISE camera will take pictures in stereo and color while it flies
more than 7,800 mph (3 and 1/2 km per second) in its final orbit.
Once in low-Mars orbit, MRO will examine the planet in unprecedented
detail, returning more data than all previous Mars missions combined.
instrument payload will study water distribution -- including ice,
liquid -- as well as geologic features and minerals. The orbiter will
support future missions to Mars by examining potential landing sites
providing a high-data-rate relay for communications back to Earth.
The MRO mission is managed for the NASA Science Mission Directorate by
a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena,
Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver, Colo. is the prime contractor
the project and built the spacecraft.