MOLA Images of the South Pole and Polar Lander Site

Several of the following visualizations show false-colored renderings of the topography in the vicinity of the Lander site. Blue tones represent elevations of less than 2 kilometers, while reddish tones are greater than about 2.8 km, relative to the mean equatorial height of Mars. The elevation of the landing site is about 2.4 km, midway into the polar layered terrain.

The 400 meters (1/4 mile) resolution of the MOLA data gives a smoothed but vertically exaggerated view of the topography. At this scale it is impossible to ascertain the actual roughness at the lander's destination, forcing project directors to make their best guesses based on available data.

Read More about NASA's Mission to Mars at the Polar Lander Web Site

Lander Approach Lander Site False Color
On this image, the ellipse appears within a false color image produced by the MOLA instrument on board Mars Global Surveyor; it is the probable landing corridor for the Mars Polar Lander. The blue hues represent elevations lower than 2 km while red hues are higher than 2.8 km. The landing target elevation is approx 2.4 km relative to the mean height of the equator.

Lander Site True Color
This image shows Viking data of the landing corridor draped over the terrain. The landing corridor is approximately 225 km long. The topography in these images is vertically exaggerated.

Mars South Pole True Color Fade between Image to the Left and Right Mars South Pole False Color
Notice how the southern polar cap appears slightly off to the side of the actual planetary pole. Theories for this include the possibility that much of the frozen cap is simply covered by dust, and therefore not easily visible.

In the second and third images above, the cap appears outlined in black. The accompanying false color data shows the topographically inferred extent of the polar layered terrain.

Hellas True Color MARS Global Elevation
These two images are intended to highlight features in the southern hemisphere. The first image was created from Viking images. The second, false color, image came from MOLA data. Here the color scale shows the darkest blues as roughly 8 km below the mean equatorial height, while reds indicate elevations up to 5 km above the mean equatorial height.

Viking Closeup Hellas False Color
These two images show the Hellas Impact Basin, a crater so large that Earth's Mt. Everest could just about fit vertically in the bowl. South of Hellas there's a relatively crater free area on the surface. Experts say it's possible that this region was resurfaced by polar glaciation in early Martian history.

South of the Hellas Impact Basis, note the relatively crater free area, possibly resurfaced by polar glaciation in early Martian history.

South Pole Local True Color South Pole Local False Color
This second pair of images focusing on the southern hemisphere were generated first from Viking data and then with MOLA data. They highlight the differences in elevation between the Hellas Impact Basin and surrounding terrain. The deepest point in Hellas is roughly 8200 meters below the equatorial mean.

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