NASA spacecraft camera yields most accurate Mars map ever
A camera aboard NASA's Mars Odyssey spacecraft has helped develop the most accurate global Martian map ever, the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) said Friday, Xinhua reported.
Researchers and the public can access the map via several websites and explore and survey the entire surface of the Red Planet.
The map was constructed using nearly 21,000 images from the Thermal Emission Imaging System, or THEMIS, a multi-band infrared camera on Odyssey. Researchers at Arizona State University's Mars Space Flight Facility in Tempe, in collaboration with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif., have been compiling the map since THEMIS observations began eight years ago.
The pictures have been smoothed, matched, blended and cartographically controlled to make a giant mosaic. Users can pan around images and zoom into them. At full zoom, the smallest surface details are 330 feet wide. While portions of Mars have been mapped at higher resolution, this map provides the most accurate view so far of the entire planet.
"We've tied the images to the cartographic control grid provided by the U.S. Geological Survey, which also modeled the THEMIS camera's optics," said Philip Christensen, principal investigator for THEMIS and director of the Mars Space Flight Facility. "This approach lets us remove all instrument distortion, so features on the ground are correctly located to within a few pixels and provide the best global map of Mars to date."
Working with THEMIS images from the new map, the public can contribute to Mars exploration by aligning the images to within a pixel's accuracy at NASA's "Be A Martian" website, which was developed in cooperation with Microsoft Corp.
"The Mars Odyssey THEMIS team has assembled a spectacular product that will be the base map for Mars researchers for many years to come," said Jeffrey Plaut, Odyssey project scientist at JPL. "The map lays the framework for global studies of properties such as the mineral composition and physical nature of the surface materials."
Mars Odyssey was launched in April 2001 and reached the Red Planet in October 2001. Science operations began in February 2002. The mission is managed by JPL, for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington.