Spaceflight Now: Breaking News

Spectacular layers of Mars exposed in Becquerel Crater
Posted: February 6, 2001

Toward the end of its Primary Mapping Mission, Mars Global Surveyor's Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC) acquired one of its most spectacular pictures of layered sedimentary rock exposed within the ancient crater Becquerel. Pictures such as this one from January 25, 2001, underscore the fact that you never know from one day to the next what the next MOC images will uncover.

While the Primary Mission ended January 31, 2001, thousands of new pictures -- revealing as-yet-unseen terrain on the red planet -- may be obtained during the Extended Mission phase, scheduled to run through at least April 2002.

The picture shown here reveals hundreds of light-toned layers in the 167 kilometers- (104 miles-) wide basin named for 19th Century French physicist Antoine H. Becquerel (1852-1908). These layers are interpreted to be sedimentary rocks deposited in the crater at some time in the distant past. They have since been eroded and exposed, revealing faults, dark layers between the bright layers, and a long geologic history (of unknown duration) recorded in these materials. Sets of parallel faults can be seen cutting across the layers in the left third of the image.

Becquerel Crater. Image Credit: 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.