Each day, Mars Global Surveyor makes 12 orbits around the red planet. On each orbit at the present time (April 1999), the spacecraft passes from daylight into night somewhere over the northern plains of Mars, and re-emerges into daylight over the southern cratered highlands. The illumination conditions near the martian terminator--the line between night and day--are perfect for observing surface texture and topography. This picture shows a common, rough and bumpy texture that MOC has revealed on the northern plains of Mars. Note the eroded impact crater at the bottom right--small black dots along its rim are interpreted to be boulders. This image covers an area 3 kilometers (1.9 miles) wide by 8 kilometers (5 miles) long and is illuminated by the sun shining low from the northeastern horizon (from the upper right).
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.