Until now, the vast northern plains of Mars have largely eluded the Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC) because these plains were obscured by winter and springtime clouds during most of the 1997 and 1998 Aerobraking and Science Phasing portions of the MGS Mission. However, now in March 1999 it is summertime in the northern hemisphere of Mars, and the northern plains are clearly in view. This image was taken at a resolution of 3 meters (10 feet) per pixel in order to characterize the nature of these plains. The image is located near Lomonosov Crater on the Vastitas Borealis plain. The image shows a patterned surface with two distinct rings that are suspected to be the locations of buried impact craters. The larger such ring (right) has dark spots clustered in several patches along its margins--these are fields boulders and rocks. The image covers an area 3 kilometers (1.9 miles) across and is illuminated from the lower left.
Malin Space Science Systems and the California Institute of Technology built the MOC using spare hardware from the Mars Observer mission. MSSS operates the camera from its facilities in San Diego, CA. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Mars Surveyor Operations Project operates the Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft with its industrial partner, Lockheed Martin Astronautics, from facilities in Pasadena, CA and Denver, CO.