First Context Camera Image of Mars

April 13, 2006

This is the first image of Mars taken by the Context Camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The spacecraft began orbiting the red planet on March 10, 2006. During its 10th close approach to Mars, on March 24, it turned its cameras to view the planet's surface. Although the images acquired were about 10 times lower in resolution than will ultimately be obtained when the spacecraft has finished reshaping its orbit for the mission's primary science phase, these test images provide important confirmation of the performance of the cameras and the spacecraft.

This first image by the Context Camera includes some chaotic terrain at the east end of Mars' Valles Marineris, seen along the top (northern) edge of the image. The image has a scale of about 87 meters (285 feet) per pixel, which is 14.5 times lower resolution than will be acquired during the primary science phase. Typical images from the Context Camera acquired during that phase of the mission will have a resolution of 6 meters (20 feet) per pixel, and will cover an area about 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) wide.

Note that, because these are initial, test images, there is some linear striping in the images. This results from incomplete removal of pixel-to-pixel variations in the Context Camera detector by the present calibration software. One use of the test imaging is an opportunity to fine-tune the calibrations before the primary science phase begins.




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