Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera Concern Resolved

Aug 27, 2007
Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera Concern Resolved
Exposed layers in Central Valles Marineris. Image credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

Diagnostic tests and months of stable, successful operation have resolved concerns raised early this year about long-term prospects for the powerful telescopic camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

The High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on the orbiter has now taken more than 3,000 images of Mars, resolving features as small as a desk in targeted areas covering thousands of square miles of the Martian surface. Already, this is the largest Mars data set ever acquired by a single experiment. The camera is one of six instruments on the orbiter.

During the first three months after the orbiter's primary science phase began in November, researchers saw an increase in noise and pixel dropouts in data from seven of the camera's 14 detectors. The effects on image quality were small in all but two detectors, but the trend raised concerns.

Tests have yielded an explanation for the earlier pattern, and the camera's performance record shows the noise stopped getting worse after about three to four months of the science phase.

Alfred McEwen of the University of Arizona, Tucson, principal investigator for the camera, said, "I'm happy to report that there has been no detectable degradation over the past five months."

A team at Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., Boulder, Colo., designer and builder of the instrument, has used an engineering model of the camera's focal-plane system to successfully duplicate the problem. This has helped in understanding causes and in testing a procedure for warming the focal-plane electronics prior to each image. One cause is that an electrical interface lacked extra capability beyond minimum requirements. Another cause is an unexpected change in performance of another electronic component over the course of the first thousand or so large images. With pre-warming, the camera acquires good data from all detectors, though minor noise remains an issue in data from one of two channels of one detector collecting infrared imagery.

McEwen said, "Given the stability we've seen and understanding the nature of the problem, we now expect HiRISE to return high-quality data for years to come."

Images from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment are online at hirise.lpl.arizona.edu .

Source: NASA

Explore further: Sticky end for sex geckos sent into space by Russia

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

In low gravity, scientists search for a way to saute

Aug 08, 2014

Chow mein on Mars? Moo shu on the moon? What would it be like to stir-fry in space? A bit messy, according to Cornell researchers, who recently conducted the first partial gravity cooking on record.

Fingers crossed as comet-chaser nears end of trek

Aug 06, 2014

European scientists were preparing for a historic rendezvous on Wednesday between a comet and a space probe after a 10-year, six billion-kilometre (3.7-billion-mile) chase through the Solar System.

Recommended for you

Caterpillar comet poses for pictures en route to Mars

7 hours ago

Now that's pure gorgeous. As Comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring sidles towards its October 19th encounter with Mars, it's passing a trio of sumptuous deep sky objects near the south celestial pole this week. ...

Hoisting a telescope with helium

8 hours ago

Many a child has forgotten to hold tight to the string of a helium balloon only to have it escape and rise until it disappeared in the glare of the sun. Helium balloons want to rise, but launching a balloon ...

User comments : 0