Images from the Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC) dramatically illustrate that many places on the red planet have outcrops of layered geologic materials. The two pictures above show the remains of layered material inside craters in southwestern Utopia Planitia (see inset for detailed view). These remnant layers indicate that the craters--and perhaps the plains that surround them--were once buried beneath a deposit that has since been eroded away. This theme of layered outcrops and exhumed craters appears to be one of the dominant observations that MGS MOC has made--to date--about Mars. The origin and composition of the layered material--and its ultimate fate once it was largely eroded away--are unknown.
Each of the two pictures shown here covers an area about 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) by 6.3 kilometers (3.9 miles). Illumination is from the lower right. These are subframes of a single MOC image acquired in July 1998 during the MGS Science Phasing Orbits imaging campaign. This figure 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.