31 December 2003
This oblique Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC) wide angle red image shows the Beagle 2 landing zone about 18 minutes after the probe was scheduled to touch down on 25 December 2003. Mars Global Surveyor passed to the west of the site shortly after touch-down, so this image was taken looking east. The white ellipse shows the approximate location of the landing site. The largest crater to the northwest (toward upper left) of the ellipse is about 28 km (17.4 mi) across. The image is streaked and has low contrast because of the combined effects of looking obliquely and the presence of a thin veil of dust that not only hung over this region, but over most of Mars on 25 December 2003. During the previous 2 weeks, a large dust storm, followed by several smaller regional-scale storms, lifted dust in the western hemisphere of Mars. This dust drifted over most of the planet, reducing contrast and degrading the quality of MGS MOC images such as this one. This MOC image is important because it shows that there were no dust storms or other weather phenomena happening at the landing site the day Beagle 2 arrived. The landing site is located in Isidis Planitia near 11°N, 269.7°W. Sunlight illuminates the scene from the lower left.
This and several other images processed by Malin Space Science Systems, Inc. were shown by the Beagle 2 team during a press conference on 29 December 2003. These and other Beagle 2 images can be seen at: http://www.beagle2.com/resources/landingphotos.htm. The Beagle 2 web site is at: http://www.beagle2.com. Weekly weather reports for the Beagle 2 and Mars Exploration Rover sites, based on MOC image analysis, can be seen at: http://www.msss.com/mars_images/moc/mer_weather.