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Mars Descent Imager
Mars Color Imager

Malin Space Science Systems (MSSS) has delivered three cameras for NASA's next mission to Mars, Mars Surveyor 1998. The Mars Descent Imager (MARDI--image #1) has been installed on the Mars Polar Lander at the Lockheed Martin Astronautics plant in Littleton, CO. MARDI will acquire a series of panchromatic images of the landing site during descent, beginning shortly after the lander's parachute is deployed. The Mars Color Imager (MARCI) medium angle unit (image #2, left) and wide angle unit (image #2, right) are presently on the Mars Climate Orbiter, awaiting environmental testing at the Lockheed Martin facility. The two MARCI units will provide global coverage of Mars at moderate and low resolution at ultraviolet, visible, and near infrared wavelengths.

"From the orbiter, the MARCI wide angle system will image all of Mars at a resolution of 7.5 km (4.6 miles) each day," said Dr. Michael Malin, Principal Investigator of the MARCI. "This daily global weather map will show us how Martian atmospheric circulation varies over the mission, much as weather satellites do for Earth. The MARCI medium angle camera will take 40 m (130 ft) resolution images in eight colors, allowing us to characterize surface properties and changes in dust cover over large parts of the planet. During the lander descent, MARDI will take pictures from an altitude of 8 km (5 miles) all the way down to the surface. This will be the first time since Apollo that images were acquired during descent to the surface of another planet. In addition to showing exactly where the spacecraft landed, this series of pictures will provide a link between the images taken from orbit and those taken after landing." Dr. Malin is also Principal Investigator on MARDI.

MARDI and MARCI incorporate an innovative electronics design that enables high-quality scientific data acquisition in a very compact package--each unit weighs about one-half kilogram (one pound), which is less than one-tenth the weight of any previous orbiter or lander camera sent to Mars. The design is also extremely conservative of power, using only three watts during data acquisition.

The MARDI and MARCI instruments were developed by MSSS under a $3.5 million contract from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA. MSSS will also provide two instruments based on the MARDI/MARCI architecture for the Mars Surveyor 2001 mission: a descent imager for the '01 lander and a visible imaging subsystem as part of Arizona State University's Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS) for the '01 orbiter.

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