Search for the Mars Polar Lander
Search for the Mars Polar Lander
ESP_013368_1035  Science Theme: Future Exploration/Landing Sites
HiRISE has helped the successful Mars Exploration Rovers and Phoenix Lander by giving these teams an "eye-in-the-sky" view. We are also trying to help understand why some missions were not successful.

One such mission was the Mars Polar Lander which went permanently silent after entering the Martian atmosphere in December 1999. It is speculated that the landing sequence failed when the legs were deployed and accidentally reported that the lander was on the ground. As a consequence, the parachute was cut while the lander was actually hundreds of feet in the air.

This HiRISE image is one of a sequence searching for either the parachute or the crumpled lander on the ground. However, we expect the debris from this mission to be covered with dust and ice, making it a challenge to identify them. The more eyes that search these images the better, so try your luck!

Most of the surface is covered with patches of small channels. It is thought that these have been carved by vaporized ice. On Mars, the ice goes straight to a gas (a process called "sublimation") rather than first melting. So, as the ice heats in the spring and summer, gas is generated and flows under the remaining ice. This flowing gas can move dust and slowly carve a small channels.

Note: We appreciate the heavy interest this can bring, but we cannot promise to answer each inquiry individually. Please refer to blog post about these images and please use our contact or you can comment on the blog post. The excellent folks at The Planetary Society also have a terrific reference page for your perusal.

As this is open-ended, we will do our best to monitor responses and we thank you for your interest!

Written by: Laszlo P. Keszthelyi  (8 July 2009)
Acquisition date
03 June 2009

Local Mars time

Latitude (centered)

Longitude (East)

Spacecraft altitude
246.8 km (153.4 miles)

Original image scale range
24.8 cm/pixel (with 1 x 1 binning) so objects ~75 cm across are resolved

Map projected scale
25 cm/pixel

Map projection

Emission angle

Phase angle

Solar incidence angle
57°, with the Sun about 33° above the horizon

Solar longitude
278.0°, Northern Winter

For non-map projected images
North azimuth:  100°
Sub-solar azimuth:  43.2°
Black and white
map projected  non-map

IRB color
map projected  non-map

Merged IRB
map projected

Merged RGB
map projected

RGB color
non-map projected

Black and white
map-projected   (1087MB)

IRB color
map-projected   (456MB)

Black and white
map-projected  (717MB)
non-map           (746MB)

IRB color
map projected  (232MB)
non-map           (530MB)

Merged IRB
map projected  (272MB)

Merged RGB
map-projected  (261MB)

RGB color
non map           (517MB)
B&W label
Color label
Merged IRB label
Merged RGB label
EDR products

IRB: infrared-red-blue
RGB: red-green-blue
About color products (PDF)

Black & white is 5 km across; enhanced color about 1 km
For scale, use JPEG/JP2 black & white map-projected images

All of the images produced by HiRISE and accessible on this site are within the public domain: there are no restrictions on their usage by anyone in the public, including news or science organizations. We do ask for a credit line where possible:

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif., manages the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington. The HiRISE camera was built by Ball Aerospace and Technology Corporation and is operated by the University of Arizona.