MGS MOC Release No. MOC2-196, 3 January 2000
This special Y2K movie was acquired by the color wide angle cameras of the Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC), looking obliquely to the west as the Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) spacecraft moved north past the rapidly shrinking south polar cap of the red planet. The MOC began taking the picture at 5:56:57 UTC on January 1, 2000, and continued imaging for just under 13 minutes. While the image was being taken, clocks back on Earth struck 12 Midnight, January 1, 2000, in the time zone that includes Mexico City and Chicago, Illinois.
The "movie" shows the motion of the MGS spacecraft above the martian surface at 15 times the speed it would pass under you if you were really there---or if we had the bandwidth to give you the movie at its full speed and resolution 8^). The bright white/pink surfaces are the martian south polar cap. It was early summer on January 1, 2000, and the martian atmosphere is hazy and pink with dust kicked up by the many small- and medium-sized dust storms that have occurred along the margin of the retreating seasonal frost cap.
The "movie" was taken as a test of using the realtime data link between the MOC and Malin Space Science Systems (MSSS) to create "live video" from Mars. During this realtime period, the MOC acquired the images one line at a time, 13 lines per second and sent groups of a few hundred lines at a time to Earth at 29,260 bits per second. Between MOC and MSSS, the data moved first through the MGS payload data system and then to the MGS radio for transmission to Earth. On Earth, a 34 m (110 foot) diameter Deep Space Network (DSN) antenna in Canberra, Australia received the data, and transferred them to and through the Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Tracking and Mission Operations Directorate (TMOD) facilities to a computer dedicated to serving realtime data. A "realtime" request (or query) for data from the science operations and planing computer at MSSS to this "master query server" brought the data to San Diego, California. Once there, calibration programs corrected the brightness and created the color composite from the red and blue images. Commercial software on a Macintosh computer was used to create the movie.
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.
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