HiRISE, the largest camera ever to leave Earth orbit, has opened a new chapter in the exploration of Mars. Its ability to resolve 1-m-scale objects – in color and 3 dimensions – anywhere on the surface of Mars is superior to that of unclassified orbital remote sensing data available to terrestrial geologists.
NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) was launched in August 2005 and has been orbiting Mars since March 2006. MRO’s Primary Science Phase (PSP, the first Mars year of science operations) lasted from November 2006 to November 2008. During this time HiRISE made thousands of observations, sampling a wide diversity of Mars terrains. The articles in this issue exhibit the breadth of scientific insights that have already come from the analysis of HiRISE images acquired during the PSP. The improved spatial resolution and color capabilities of HiRISE are especially useful in recognizing and characterizing interesting recent or active geologic processes. An overview of HiRISE operations during PSP and the status of HiRISE calibration, essential for the proper interpretation of many features in the images, are also included. The fact that the contributions to this special issue include several papers from outside the HiRISE Team is evidence that the team’s efforts to rapidly provide useful data to the entire science community are bearing fruit.
MRO is now well into its Extended Science Phase, and continues to return astonishing HiRISE images. Clearly, the results reported in this issue are only the beginning—each HiRISE image is so large (typically 20,000 samples by 60,000 lines) that thorough analysis of the PSP dataset alone will require years of effort. As demonstrated by many of the papers in this issue, the synthesis of HiRISE and other datasets will reveal many more of Mars’ secrets.
We thank the contributors, reviewers and the Icarus editorial staff for their support of this special issue. Their efforts enabled the high quality of the articles that follow.
Additional Publication Details
Introduction to the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) Special Issue of Icarus