Spaceflight Now: Breaking News

Mars orbiter checks out landing site for future probe
Posted: January 15, 2001

On December 20, the European Space Agency (ESA) announced the selection of a landing site for the British Mars lander, Beagle 2, that will be carried to the red planet aboard ESA's Mars Express orbiter in 2003.

Landing ellipse overlay on Mars Global Surveyor MOC camera Wide Angle Color Mosaic. Photo: NASA/JPL/Malin Space Science Systems
The landing is currently scheduled for December 26, 2003. The landing site is centered near 11 deg N, 270 deg W, in eastern Isidis Planitia. The name, Isidis Planitia, refers to the broad, relatively flat plain that covers the floor of an extremely ancient, large basin formed by an asteroid or comet impact perhaps more than 4 billion years ago. The floor of this basin exhibits chains of pitted ridges, numerous smaller meteor impact craters, and a variety of light-toned ripples and small dunes.

In this two-part Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC) data release, the MOC Team at Malin Space Science Systems (MSSS) presented all available MOC image products as well as MGS Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter (MOLA) shaded relief maps and Viking Orbiter views of the Beagle 2 landing site. These products are being used by the MOC Team to help determine where new MOC narrow angle images need to be acquired during the MGS Extended Mission phase that will run from February 2001 to April 2002.

Below are two zoomed in views of the landing zone.

MOC narrow angle view of the Beagle 2 landing site region. Photo: NASA/JPL/Malin Space Science Systems

Another MOC narrow angle view of the Beagle 2 landing site region. Photo: NASA/JPL/Malin Space Science Systems

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.