One Mars Orbiter Takes First Photos of Other Orbiters

May 19, 2005
One Mars Orbiter Takes First Photos of Other Orbiters

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.

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.

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.

The new images of the European Space Agency's Mars Express and NASA's Mars Odyssey are available on the Internet from NASA at

Explore further: Shining a light on the aurora of Mars

Related Stories

Shining a light on the aurora of Mars

November 5, 2015

ESA's Mars Express has shed new light on the Red Planet's rare ultraviolet aurora by combining for the first time remote observations with in situ measurements of electrons hitting the atmosphere.

The moon

September 21, 2015

Look up in the night sky. On a clear night, if you're lucky, you'll catch a glimpse of the moon shining in all it's glory. As Earth's only satellite, the moon has orbited our planet for over three and a half billion years. ...

NASA's Odyssey spacecraft sets exploration record on Mars

December 16, 2010

NASA's Mars Odyssey, which launched in 2001, will break the record Wednesday for longest-serving spacecraft at the Red Planet. The probe begins its 3,340th day in Martian orbit at 5:55 p.m. PST (8:55 p.m. EST) on Wednesday ...

NASA and Microsoft Provide Mars 3-D Close Encounter

July 12, 2010

( -- NASA and Microsoft Research are bringing Mars to life with new features in the WorldWide Telescope software that provide viewers with a high-resolution 3-D map of the Red Planet.

Whatever happened to . . . the Mars Global Surveyor?

September 13, 2012

On September 11, 1997, the Mars Global Surveyor slipped into orbit around the Red Planet. Like JPL's Mariner and Viking missions before it, MGS (as it was affectionately known) fundamentally changed our view of Mars. First ...

Recommended for you

Amazon deforestation leaps 16 percent in 2015

November 28, 2015

Illegal logging and clearing of Brazil's Amazon rainforest increased 16 percent in the last year, the government said, in a setback to the aim of stopping destruction of the world's greatest forest by 2030.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.