NASA Spacecraft Camera Yields Most Accurate Mars Map Ever

WASHINGTON -- A camera aboard NASA's Mars Odyssey spacecraft has
helped develop the most accurate global Martian map ever. Researchers
and the public can access the map via several websites and explore
and survey the entire surface of the Red Planet.

The map was constructed using nearly 21,000 images from the Thermal
Emission Imaging System, or THEMIS, a multi-band infrared camera on
Odyssey. Researchers at Arizona State University's Mars Space Flight
Facility in Tempe, in collaboration with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif., have been compiling the map since THEMIS observations began eight years ago.

The pictures have been smoothed, matched, blended and cartographically
controlled to make a giant mosaic. Users can pan around images and
zoom into them. At full zoom, the smallest surface details are 330
feet wide. While portions of Mars have been mapped at higher
resolution, this map provides the most accurate view so far of the entire planet.

The new map is available at:


Advanced users with large bandwidth, powerful computers and software
capable of handling images in the gigabyte range can download the
full-resolution map in sections at:


"We've tied the images to the cartographic control grid provided by
the U.S. Geological Survey, which also modeled the THEMIS camera's
optics," said Philip Christensen, principal investigator for THEMIS
and director of the Mars Space Flight Facility. "This approach lets
us remove all instrument distortion, so features on the ground are
correctly located to within a few pixels and provide the best global
map of Mars to date."

Working with THEMIS images from the new map, the public can contribute
to Mars exploration by aligning the images to within a pixel's
accuracy at NASA's "Be A Martian" website, which was developed in
cooperation with Microsoft Corp. Users can visit the site at:


"The Mars Odyssey THEMIS team has assembled a spectacular product that
will be the base map for Mars researchers for many years to come,"
said Jeffrey Plaut, Odyssey project scientist at JPL. "The map lays
the framework for global studies of properties such as the mineral
composition and physical nature of the surface materials."

Other sites build upon the base map. At Mars Image Explorer, which
includes images from every Mars orbital mission since the mid-1970s,
users can search for images using a map of Mars at:


"The broad purpose underlying all these sites is to make Mars
exploration easy and engaging for everyone," Christensen said. "We
are trying to create a user-friendly interface between the public and
NASA's Planetary Data System, which does a terrific job of
collecting, validating and archiving data."

Mars Odyssey was launched in April 2001 and reached the Red Planet in
October 2001. Science operations began in February 2002. The mission
is managed by JPL, for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in
Washington. Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver is the prime
contractor for the project and built the spacecraft. NASA's Planetary
Data System, sponsored by the Science Mission Directorate, archives
and distributes scientific data from the agency's planetary missions,
astronomical observations, and laboratory measurements.

For more information about NASA's Odyssey spacecraft, visit:


Source: NASA

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