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By GCN Staff

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Digital topographic map of mars

USGS team's digital topographic maps guide Mars Curiosity

Topographic maps, which show landscape features and elevations, were critical in the selection of the Mars Curiosity landing site and the rover’s subsequent treks across the Martian surface.

A team of scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Astrogeology Science Center in Flagstaff, Ariz., began making maps  in 2007 for this summer’s landing. Led by geophysicist Randy Kirk, the team used the cameras on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter to take stereopairs, which USGS describes as “two photographs of the same area from slightly different angles -- whose combination produces a three-dimensional image from which elevation data for every pixel can be derived.” 

The resulting digital topographic maps have created huge datasets. The maps of the Gale crater landing site contained as much information as is contained in the entire global topographic map of Mars, USGS said. According to the agency, that amount of data is about a million times more than what the team produced by nondigital stereo mapping of the 1997 Mars Pathfinder landing site, the team’s first landing-site assessment.

Posted by GCN Staff on Oct 24, 2012 at 9:39 AM


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