Three years ago (December 3, 1999) Mars Polar Lander (MPL) was set to touchdown on the enigmatic layered terrain located near the South Pole. Unfortunately, communications with the spacecraft were lost and never regained. The Mars Program Independent Assessment Team concluded that this loss was most likely due to premature retrorocket shutdown resulting in the crash of the lander. The image primarily shows what appears to be a ridged surface with some small isolated hills.
Historically, exploration has and will continue to be a very hard and risky endeavor and sometimes you lose. But the spirit of exploration and discovery has served mankind well throughout the ages and it has now driven us to the far reaches of space. Therefore, with this in mind the THEMIS Team today is releasing an image of the region where MPL was set to land in memory of this mission and the unquenchable spirit of exploration. It is hoped that in the near future we will once again attempt another landing in the Martian polar regions.
Note: this THEMIS visual image has not been radiometrically nor geometrically calibrated for this preliminary release. An empirical correction has been performed to remove instrumental effects. A linear shift has been applied in the cross-track and down-track direction to approximate spacecraft and planetary motion. Fully calibrated and geometrically projected images will be released through the Planetary Data System in accordance with Project policies at a later time.
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory manages the 2001 Mars Odyssey mission for NASA's Office of Space Science, Washington, D.C. The Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS) was developed by Arizona State University, Tempe, in collaboration with Raytheon Santa Barbara Remote Sensing. The THEMIS investigation is led by Dr. Philip Christensen at Arizona State University. Lockheed Martin Astronautics, Denver, is the prime contractor for the Odyssey project, and developed and built the orbiter. Mission operations are conducted jointly from Lockheed Martin and from JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.