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NASA and NIMA Begin Joint Review of Mars Polar Lander Search Analysis
NASA and NIMA Begin Joint Review of Mars Polar Lander Search Analysis
26 Mar 2001
(Source: NASA Headquarters/National Imagery and Mapping Agency)

Donald Savage
Headquarters, Washington, DC
(Phone: 202/358-1547)

Jennifer Lafley
National Imagery and Mapping Agency, Bethesda, MD
(Phone: 301/227-3089)

RELEASE: 01-52

NASA and the National Imagery and Mapping Agency (NIMA) today said researchers from the two agencies will continue a joint review of the initial results of NIMA's search for the missing Mars Polar Lander. This analysis is extremely challenging, and has thus far produced no definitive conclusions.

NIMA researchers used high resolution imagery from NASA's Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft, now in orbit around the Red Planet, in their effort to locate the lander and its components, including a protective aeroshell, heat shield and parachute.

One of the principal challenges in locating the missing lander using images from the orbiter is that the Mars Polar Lander is only somewhat larger -- about six and a half feet across -- than the smallest objects the orbiter's camera can see on the surface of Mars.

In an initial analysis, NIMA researchers reviewed and assessed features seen in several images that they believe could be indicative of the lander and its protective aeroshell. An alternative view presented by NASA is that these features could be noise introduced by the camera system, so further work between NASA and NIMA will be conducted to address differences of interpretation.

Both agencies intend to continue working together on the analysis of these images and of additional images of the landing site, which will be collected later this year.

The Mars Polar Lander was lost during its attempted landing on Mars, Dec. 3, 1999. Within two weeks, NASA began obtaining high resolution images of the intended landing site using the camera onboard the orbiting Mars Global Surveyor in an attempt to locate the lander on the Martian surface. No sign of the Mars Polar Lander was found in the NASA searches. In an independent search, starting about the same time, NASA and NIMA began working together to analyze images of the planet's surface.

NIMA, a Combat Support Agency of the Department of Defense and a member of the National Intelligence Community, provides imagery intelligence and geospatial information in support of national security objectives. Headquartered in Bethesda, MD, NIMA operates major facilities in northern Virginia; Washington, DC; and St. Louis, MO.

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Last Updated: 5 Jun 2001