As many people on Earth celebrated the dawn of a new year, a new century, and a new millennium, the Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC) continued its journey that began with a proposal to NASA nearly 15 years earlier in 1985. As the clock rolled over to 2000 A.D., MOC was busily snapping its daily global weather maps and a variety of higher-resolution images such as the two shown here.
On December 25, 1999, Mars passed its northern hemisphere winter solstice, marking the beginning of northern winter (and summer in the southern hemisphere). The pictures shown here are from the northern hemisphere among the mesas and buttes of the Nilosyrtis Mensae. This region, if it were on Earth, would be located in western Afghanistan around 33° N latitude, 63° E longitude (297°W on Mars). The picture was one of the first high resolution views of Mars taken by the MGS MOC on January 1, 2000, at 06:42 UTC (6 hours, 42 minutes after the new year began in the Greenwich Time Zone).
The picture on the left is a context frame that covers an area 115 km (71 mi) across. The white box shows the location of the new millennium Mars image, which also appears on the right. This high resolution view shows a wide variety of surface textures caused mainly by unknown, possibly uniquely "martian" geologic processes. The view also includes small, bright, windblown drifts. The high resolution view covers an area 3 km across at a resolution of 4.5 meters (15 feet) per pixel. The sun illuminates both scenes from the lower left.
The MGS MOC began taking pictures from Mars orbit in September 1997. It's primary mission will last through January 2001. After that, an extended mission might be approved by NASA -- this would allow the camera to continue its activities well into 2002 or beyond.