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: New method makes space weather easier to predict

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

'Bright spot' on Ceres has dimmer companion

7 hours ago

Dwarf planet Ceres continues to puzzle scientists as NASA's Dawn spacecraft gets closer to being captured into orbit around the object. The latest images from Dawn, taken nearly 29,000 miles (46,000 kilometers) ...

New detection technologies for bacterial pathogens

Feb 19, 2015

In FP7 jargon, RAPTADIAG is categorised as a 'small or medium-scale focused research project'. However, the past two years have seen the consortium turn a novel diagnostic test for bacterial meningitis into ...

Jupiter reaches opposition on February 6th

Feb 05, 2015

Did you see the brilliant Full Snow Moon rising last night? Then you might've also noticed a bright nearby 'star'. Alas, that was no star, but the largest planet in our solar system, Jupiter. And it was no ...

Recommended for you

New method makes space weather easier to predict

11 minutes ago

Scientists can now gain a better understanding of space weather – the dreaded solar winds and flares – thanks to the development of high spatial resolution observation and computing methods. For the first ...

Mystery giant Mars plumes still unexplained

21 minutes ago

On Feb. 16, an international group of researchers proposed new hypotheses about some unusual plumes spotted by amateur astronomers on Mars in 2012. The plumes were seen rising to altitudes of over 250 km ...

Hunting transiting exoplanets

38 minutes ago

European Southern Observatory (ESO) gears up for the exoplanet hunting. The Next-Generation Transit Survey (NGTS), a wide-field observing system made up of an array of twelve telescopes was installed at ESO's ...

User comments : 0

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.