The trio of cameras aboard NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has beamed back its first shots of the Red Planet. Mission controllers are again relieved the kit seems to be functioning properly, having dodged the 'Mars Curse' by entering orbit safely.
The main purpose of this first image set was to help with calibration procedures for the main mission in autumn. The precise corrections needed for colour imaging and high-resolution surface measurements from stereo pairs of images need to be worked out.
Even so, principal investigator of the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment camera, Alfred McEwen said: “These high resolution images of Mars are thrilling, and unique given the early morning time of day.”
Taken from about 1,500 miles above the surface, the image pictured shows deep canyons on Mars' southern highlands. NASA says the best-quality version shows about 2.4 metres per pixel.
The orbiter's elliptical path will gradually become more circular and take it closer to the Red Planet's surface over the next few months. Once at around 158 miles up, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter will be used to investigate the atmosphere, surface and underground in unprecedented detail. It will make the measurements necessary for planning a manned jaunt. ®