This image is the first view of Mars taken by the Mars Global Surveyor Orbiter Camera (MOC). It was acquired the afternoon of July 2, 1997 when the MGS spacecraft was 17.2 million kilometers (10.7 million miles) and 72 days from encounter. At this distance, the MOC's resolution is about 64 km per picture element, and the 6800 km (4200 mile) diameter planet is 105 pixels across. The observation was designed to show the Mars Pathfinder landing site at 19.4 N, 33.1 W approximately 48 hours prior to landing. The image shows the north polar cap of Mars at the top of the image, the dark feature Acidalia Planitia in the center with the brighter Chryse plain immediately beneath it, and the highland areas along the Martian equator including the canyons of the Valles Marineris (which are bright in this image owing to atmospheric dust). The dark features Terra Meridiani and Terra Sabaea can be seen at the 4 o`clock position, and the south polar hood (atmospheric fog and hazes) can be seen at the bottom of the image. Launched on November 7, 1996, Mars Global Surveyor will enter Mars orbit on Thursday, September 11 shortly after 6:00 PM PDT. After Mars Orbit Insertion, the spacecraft will use atmospheric drag to reduce the size of its orbit, achieving a circular orbit only 400 km (248 mi) above the surface in early March 1998, when mapping operations will begin.
The Mars Global Surveyor is operated by the Mars Surveyor Operations Project managed for NASA by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena CA. The Mars Orbiter Camera is a duplicate of one of the six instruments originally developed for the Mars Observer mission. It was built and is operated under contract to JPL by an industry/university team led by Malin Space Science Systems, San Diego, CA.