The above Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC) image shows a portion of the slope just inside the south rim of the approximately 400 kilometer-(250 mile)-wide Schiaparelli Basin near the martian equator. The large white arrow points to a steep cliff exposure of dark-toned rock. The small white arrow points to one of several ~18 meter (59 feet) diameter boulders that apparently broke off the steep, dark cliff and rolled down the slope to the basin floor. Each boulder left behind a trail on the relatively soft, dusty slope. In addition, some of the boulders exhibit a bright wind streak pointing toward the lower left/center, indicating that these boulders have been sitting there long enough to influence local wind distribution of sediment.
Before the Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) mission, boulder tracks such as these had never been seen on Mars before, but in the 1960s and 1970s several examples on the Moon and Earth were documented. The picture shown here covers an area approximately 2.8 kilometers (1.7 miles) by 4.4 kilometers (2.7 miles). Illumination is from the lower left. The picture was acquired in January 1998 during the MGS Aerobrake-1 Orbits imaging campaign, and was presented at the 30th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in Houston, Texas, March 1999.
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.