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Mars Projects at Malin Space Science Systems

Malin Space Science Systems (MSSS) designs, develops, and operates instruments that fly on robotic spacecraft.


Mars Global Surveyor --- Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC)

MSSS is responsible for the daily operation of the Mars Global Surveyor Mars Orbiter Camera. New data are being acquired almost continuously. MSSS is also responsible for archiving the data and coordinating the research efforts of the MOC Science Team. Mars Global Surveyor has been orbiting the red planet since September 1997.


Mars Polar Lander --- Mars Descent Imager (MARDI)

MSSS designed and fabricated the Mars Descent Imager onboard the Mars Polar Lander at its facilities in San Diego, California. MARDI images will be received, processed, and studied by the MARDI Science Team at MSSS during the weeks following the December 3, 1999, arrival of Mars Polar Lander.


Deep Space 2 and Mars Polar Lander --- Mars Relay (MR)

All of the data from the Deep Space 2 Microprobes (Amundsen and Scott) and some Mars Polar Lander observations are sent to Earth via Mars Global Surveyor's Mars Relay radio system, provided by the French Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales (CNES). Data from the surface are temporarily stored in the Mars Orbiter Camera's computer memory, and then returned to Earth intermixed with MOC images. MSSS has become the first "interplanetary internet service provider," receiving data from Mars landers, relaying those data through the MOC to Earth, and transfering the data to the lander teams.


Mars Surveyor 2001 --- Orbiter (THEMIS-VIS) and Lander (MARDI)

MSSS has designed and built two instruments that will launch toward Mars in 2001---the visible camera (VIS) for the Orbiter's Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS)---and the Lander's descent imager (MARDI). New Mars Global Surveyor MOC images have been acquired and are presently being targeted by MSSS personnel for the purpose of selecting a landing site for the 2001 Lander. Two regions are being considered, one in the southern rim mountains of the Isidis Basin, the other a large, flat expanse of central Terra Meridiani. The landing is planned for January 2002.


Mars Climate Orbiter --- Mars Color Imager (MARCI)

MSSS designed, fabricated, and operated the two-camera MARCI system for the Mars Climate Orbiter. The Wide Angle camera was designed to produce daily, global weather maps. The Medium Angle camera had a spatial resolution of 40 m/pixel (130 ft/pixel) and was intended for multispectral color mapping of selected regions of Mars. MARCI included an ultraviolet filter for water vapor and ozone mapping. The Mars Climate Orbiter was lost during orbit insertion activities on September 23, 1999. Only 1 picture of Mars was taken by MARCI (shown here, left).


Mars Observer --- Mars Observer Camera (MOC)

MSSS operated the Mars Observer Camera onboard the Mars Observer spacecraft that was lost in August 1993. The Mars Observer project began in 1985 and the spacecraft launched in 1992. It was lost just 3 days prior to the planned orbit insertion. A replacement for the Mars Observer Camera was fabricated by MSSS from spare parts and is presently orbiting Mars and taking pictures from the Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft. Only a few Mars Observer images of Mars were obtained during the spacecraft's approach to the red planet.


Malin Space Science Systems (MSSS)

Malin Space Science Systems designs and builds space-qualified cameras both as a contractor to other institutions, and in support of investigations proposed by MSSS scientists. It also operates cameras it has built. In addition to the Mars exploration activities listed above, MSSS and its personnel are involved, either in the role of support contractor or science participant, with the Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous (NEAR) mission, the Mars Global Surveyor Thermal Emission Spectrometer, the Mars Surveyor 2003 Athena Rover project, and an array of research, development, and proposal activities including Mars airplanes and cameras for missions to Europa and Pluto. For more information, visit the MSSS website:

Image Credits, this page--- Artwork: NASA/JPL/Caltech; Photos: NASA/JPL/Malin Space Science Systems

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