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Mars Express 3D Image Released 213

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the whole-lotta-mars-going-on dept.
zoney_ie writes "As reported in BBC News Online, ESA (European Space Agency) have released an image of the surface of Mars, captured in 3D and full colour. Europe's Mars Express orbiter has been taking pictures of the Martian surface at down to 10m resolution. The mission will result in Mars being more carefully mapped than Earth has been to date! Full size image available on ESA's Mars Express Website."
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Mars Express 3D Image Released

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  • Congrats ESA (Score:5, Interesting)

    by QuantumFTL (197300) * <justin.wick@gmai l . com> on Monday January 19, 2004 @12:53PM (#8022452)
    As a NASA worker, I'd like to congradulate the ESA on their success with Mars Express.

    Welcome to Mars!

    Cheers,
    Justin Wick
    Science Activity Planner Developer
    Mars Exploration Rovers
  • by loserbert (697119) on Monday January 19, 2004 @12:54PM (#8022460) Homepage
    The mission will result in Mars being more carefully mapped than Earth has been to date!

    "You never finish anything! Why don't you go and finish the Earth before you go running off to map some other silly planet?"

  • by Krapangor (533950) on Monday January 19, 2004 @12:54PM (#8022472) Homepage
    Spot the beagle !
  • by HMA2000 (728266) on Monday January 19, 2004 @12:54PM (#8022473)
    I am pretty sure that many top secret government organizations have mapped the earth at a better resolution than 10 meters.

    Or did you think the US bombed the chinense embassy on accident?
    • I am pretty sure that many top secret government organizations have mapped the earth at a better resolution than 10 meters.

      Maybe, but there's no construction activity on mars, precious little erosion (wind only, no water) and (I think?) no continental drift. Any map of earth gets out of date pretty quickly.

    • I used to work here. Most of Alaska and surrounding environs is available at 10m:

      http://www.asf.alaska.edu/

      -
    • I was under the impression it was the combination of the amount (they hope to scan approx. 2/3s of Mars) and the resolution (which although 12m for this image, the ESA website mentions 10m, with a smaller amount taken at 2m resolution).

      Also the camera is only one instrument. Mineral composition will be mapped, as will the atmosphere with an array of equipment - spectrometers, atom analyser, radio, radar...

      It's a pretty nifty piece of kit.

      Check out:
      http://www.esa.int/export/SPECIALS/Mars_Exp r ess/SE MUC75
  • Spitit (Score:4, Interesting)

    by icebones (707368) on Monday January 19, 2004 @12:55PM (#8022480) Homepage
    so, do they have any pictures of the Spirit rover, in those 3d pics?
    • The resolution of Mars Express camera is circa 10m so it could be possible to spot Spirit if the pass is at the right time of day (Martian Dawn/Dusk and it can cast a 10+m shadow)

      There could also be a possibilty of spotting Spirit or Beagles chutes if they have played out flat on the surface (and not been blown miles away by now)

      I'm pretty sure this isn't a huge mission priority right at the moment because i'd imagine it taking a lot of analysis to find them in the pixels.
    • Re:Spirit (Score:4, Informative)

      by meiocyte (455845) on Monday January 19, 2004 @01:22PM (#8022782) Homepage
      At 10m resolution, one or two pixels in the images will have some light from Spirit, yes. =)

      But I think the joining forces around Mars [esa.int] link from the main page is very cool.

      From the article:

      Agustin Chicarro, ESA's Project Scientist for Mars Express, said: "This is the first time that two space agencies are co-operating on another planet with two spacecraft. It is remarkable to know that one is in orbit and one is on the surface, both taking measurements to complement each other."
  • by belmolis (702863) <billposer AT alum DOT mit DOT edu> on Monday January 19, 2004 @12:57PM (#8022510) Homepage

    In addition to the scientific value, that image makes terrific wallpaper, and it is scaled perfectly for my monitor.

  • Fullsize image (Score:4, Informative)

    by SiGiN (679749) <{gro.enihped} {ta} {nigis}> on Monday January 19, 2004 @12:59PM (#8022522) Homepage
    Here [xchat.ru]
  • Gaming? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 19, 2004 @01:03PM (#8022581)
    Are these images copyrighted, or are they put straight into the public domain? It sure would be cool to play a realtime strategy game (Dune 2005? heh.) right on the surface of Mars!
    • Re:Gaming? (Score:3, Funny)

      by donnyspi (701349)
      Move over, Scorched Earth, time for Scorched Mars!
    • I don't know about the ESA, but all images that NASA publishes are public domain. I would be surprised if the ESA were any different.
      • What happens if an image showing an obvious structure, system of roadways or whatever, comes in. Do "they" get to hold on to that one a little longer before releasing it to the public?
    • Maybe :) (Score:4, Informative)

      by turkeyphant (648612) on Monday January 19, 2004 @01:56PM (#8023121) Homepage Journal

      From the FAQ [r3h.net]: "You may freely use the images you find on our site, as long as it is not for commercial use. You may not modify the images. If you intend to use any of the images on a website, please acknowledge that it originates from ESA. For more information, see our Terms and conditions of use."

      However, in those terms and conditions [r3h.net], it goes on to say the following:

      "The contents of the ESA Web Portal are intended for the personal and non-commercial use of its users. ESA grants permission to users to visit the site, and to download and copy information, images, documents and materials from the website for users' personal non-commercial use. ESA does not grant the right to resell or redistribute any information, documents, images or material from its website or to compile or create derivative works from material on its website. Use of material on the website is subject to the terms and conditions outlined below.

      All material published on the ESA Web Portal is protected by copyright and owned or controlled by ESA or the party credited as the provider of the content, software or other material.

      Users may not modify, publish, transmit, participate in the transfer or sale of, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, display or in any way exploit any of the content, software, material or services, in whole or in part, without obtaining prior written authorisation. In order to obtain authorisation to display or use any content of the ESA Web Portal, please make a request for authorization by clicking on 'Contact us'."

      Damnations.

    • Re:Gaming? (Score:2, Interesting)

      by tordon (176098)
      Check out X-Plane at www.x-plane.com

      X-plane is a flight sim where you can fly around over mars now in aircraft you can design.

      It is very accurate - It uses data from the Mars Orbiting Laser Altimeter to render Mars, and "Blade element theory" to figure out how an aircraft will fly on earth & on mars. It's pretty cool.

      Costs about US$70 for the full version with mars scenery.

      PS: I don't work for them...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 19, 2004 @01:04PM (#8022602)
    They need to get this thing over that so-called face. This clearly has the resolution to reveal the truth that it's probably a butt.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 19, 2004 @01:06PM (#8022616)
    a la NASA's "Blue Marble" images for Earth?

    That's one thing NASA has over ESA - they release a lot more material into the public domain... and this time I'm actually paying for it with my tax Euros, so I say they should release the images to us all :)
  • Earth to date? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Bigby (659157) on Monday January 19, 2004 @01:06PM (#8022617)
    Earth is mapped, near real time, to about 1 foot with military satellites.
    • Re:Earth to date? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by zeux (129034) * on Monday January 19, 2004 @01:34PM (#8022877)
      There's no need to map earth at 1 foot resolution near real time. It's just so much data that you wouldn't have the time to analyse it until it gets outdated (continental drift, erosion, etc).

      Instead they do have 1 foot resolution but they use it only on certains parts of the world and only when they need it, Iraq for instance.
    • Unless military satellites are a hell of a lot more advanced than they let on, I doubt they have much capability to perminate several miles of water or thick jungles and forests. Mars, on the other hand, has not a lot obscuring it at all.

      Besides which, I'd debate your assertion that the eart is mapped that accurately, in real time. Sure, satellites can map a particular part of the earth with such accuracy, but they don't keep cameras pointed at every part of the planet at the same time. That would just be
    • Earth is mapped, near real time, to about 1 foot with military satellites.

      qualify this. how many sqr feet does the earth contain? - for how long? - what time frame? - what is the size of the area to be measured? what spectrum(s) are being used?

      are you telling me that 500 square Megameters [vendian.org] of data times 3.28 (1 meter approx 3.28 feet [google.com]) of data is collected *realtime*?

      it is more likely this occurs on very selected target area for a selected period of time within a specified range of the spectrum - b

    • by jandrese (485) *
      It's true! A guy in a tin foil hat told me. No matter where you go, they can watch you through their satellites. Even inside. They need that kind of accuracy to target the mind control rays.
  • by 3dr (169908) on Monday January 19, 2004 @01:06PM (#8022621)
    Well, let's think about this.

    Considering we have publicly accessible aerial imagery down to 1m resolution (and you know the US military has sub-meter capability for their purposes) in selected areas, and 2m and 10m over the rest of the world, I'd say there is far more detail on Earth than Mars.

    Further, the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission/SRTM mapped some 85% of the Earth's surface. Much of the data that mission generated is actually redundant, with some areas being scanned 3 times. This makes that data even more reliable, although it's fairly coarse at only 1arcsec resolution.

    And IIRC, the Russian EGNOS (?) data covers Europe-to-Asia with decent resolution.

    Anyway, I'm not busting the submitter's chops for this comment. I think the Mars mapping is fantastic, and I wish those of us interested in amateur digital cartography (now *there's* a party conversation topic) had equally easy access to Mars data.

    Video games should make more use of all the terrain data governments generate.
    • SimCity 4 lets you create your own terrain for map regions, complete with altitudes and water bodies. I think you give it a greyscale BMP and it figures out how to do it all. Anyway, using some of the terrain data governments generate, you can create incredibly realistic regions for play in the game. It's not a trivial process, but there are webpages saying how to do it all.

      I expect this is how the SC4 creators came up with their built-in regions of real-life areas, like NYC and San Francisco. I don't

  • And don't forget... (Score:5, Informative)

    by zeux (129034) * on Monday January 19, 2004 @01:07PM (#8022626)
    It's only ONE aspect of the Mars Express mission.

    On the website [esa.int] we can read:

    The Mars Express Orbiter will:
    image the entire surface at high resolution (10 m/pixel) and selected areas at super resolution (2 m/pixel)
    produce a map of the mineral composition of the surface at 100 m resolution
    map the composition of the atmosphere and determine its global circulation
    determine the structure of the sub-surface to a depth of a few kilometres
    determine the effect of the atmosphere on the surface
    determine the interaction of the atmosphere with the solar wind


    Beagle2 failed but it was only 20% of the mission.
    • "produce a map of the mineral composition of the surface at 100 m resolution"

      Do you suppose we'll pretend to offer democracy to Mars as we steal their mineral resources? I haven't heard anything about Martian weapons of mass destruction yet, but that could change. It would be a heck of a sight easier to get the bill through congress if the administration would just fake an attack by a Martian gunboat. Maybe that's why all these craft keep "disappearing." Somewhere down the line we declare that they have al
    • Beagle2 failed but it was only 20% of the mission.

      Well that's funny. Months ago, the ESA led people to believe that Beagle 2 was the whole point of the mission (they sure hammered that point home at the ESA exibition in Helsinki, in September).

      Then, when Beagle failed to bark, I started reading people's reactions saying "it is only 50% of the mission".

      How did Beagle fall on the measly 20% now? /me scratches head
      • by zeux (129034) *
        It was the most spectacular part of the mission for sure, but in term of scientific return they estimated it to be between 20 and 25% of the whole Mars Express experiment.
      • by mikerich (120257) on Monday January 19, 2004 @03:25PM (#8024091)
        Well that's funny. Months ago, the ESA led people to believe that Beagle 2 was the whole point of the mission (they sure hammered that point home at the ESA exibition in Helsinki, in September).

        Beagle 2 was certainly the most media friendly part of the mission, but ESA has always stressed that it was a bolt-on to the main mission. Mars Express had been approved long before Beagle 2 was added to the payload and would have proceeded even if Beagle 2 had not made the pre-flight checks.

        Best wishes,
        Mike.

        • Allright, I see. But I wasn't under that impression after visiting the exibition and seeing the presentation there.

          BTW, those pictures look awesome. Why are they sent our way only now, do you know?
  • by Captain Rotundo (165816) on Monday January 19, 2004 @01:08PM (#8022650) Homepage
    did anyone else notice the part in the ESA disclaimer about if the picture contained any recognizable individual.... wonder what they know about mars that we don't....
  • by ZPO (465615) on Monday January 19, 2004 @01:08PM (#8022651)
    If the full georegistered archive is made available I'll be pleased. Otherwise it will be just another data-source for ESA to make money off of.

    Given all the taxes paid citizens of the ESA member nations it had sure better be made publicly available.

    • Well, the idea of government it not to compete with private enterprise.

      Back when I worked for USGS, our goal was to maintain the data, not distribute it free of charge. (We weren't given enough money to do a great job of keeping it up to date anyway.)

      Private companies usually rendered the pretty maps, distributed the datasets, etc. You paid for the service and ease of use those companies gave you.
      • Well, the idea of government it not to compete with private enterprise.

        BZZZZ! Wrong!

        The idea of government is to provide for the common welfare of the people. If the government has already collected the data for other purposes, then providing that data free (or at most the cost of providing it) should not be considered "competition". Our tax money has already paid for it; there is nothing that says some other private entity has the right to prevent the government from publishing the data just so that pr

      • Warning - US Centric discussion follows....

        I agree on the rendering of "pretty" maps and additional work on the datasets.

        In general, I'm most interested in DRGs and DOQQs. The DRGs are produced directly by USGS, The DOQQs are produced by multiple sources (ie - some states are doing their own updates). I'm happy to pay *REASONABLE* costs of download and copying to CD. What I've seen from most state GIS clearing houses and a certain commercial site don't even pass the smell test of reasonable.

        Fortunate
  • I am looking at the image, and I see what appear to be faint blue traces in the valley regions. Does this look like ice to anyone else? I am not sure what I am seeing, but it is definitely not just red sand and red rocks down there.
    • The blue could be anything, minerals, the way the digital camera picks up shadow, but it is interesting that it is in the shady areas, worth a closer look though.
    • Would water/ice be blue w/out a blue sky? I only paid attention in physics when fire was involved, so I have no idea, but does anyone else know?

      -bs
    • by ax3lb (717214)
      ...especially in the 3D-image (look at the upper left region). Photo is propably taken during some early morning or late evening hours (shadows casted by the mountains) so it could be a possibility.
      • It looks more like night frost to me. During the cold night, frost settles on the ground. Sun light melts it in the morning. It lingers the longest in the shaded valley floors.

        That's how it works on earth, at least. Why not on Mars?
  • In perspective... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Gorimek (61128) on Monday January 19, 2004 @01:17PM (#8022725) Homepage
    So in little longer than Spirit has moved about 4 steps, Express has mapped the entire planet? Not bad...

    As for the "better than earth" maps, I think they include the 70% of our planet that is under water.
    • Re:In perspective... (Score:5, Informative)

      by FrostedWheat (172733) on Monday January 19, 2004 @01:50PM (#8023056)
      Express has mapped the entire planet?

      Not the entire planet. It's a fairly narrow strip of the planet. The main mapping mission hasn't begun yet. For now they are just calibrating the science instruments. I guess this image is part of that test.

      Looks great! They will be mapping more than just Mars aswell, Phobos will also be globally mapped for the first time ever.

      BTW, anyone know why there hasn't been any new Spirt images in the last 3 or 4 days?
      • Re:In perspective... (Score:3, Informative)

        by Ben Jackson (30284)

        BTW, anyone know why there hasn't been any new Spirt images in the last 3 or 4 days?

        After egress they stopped to test the instruments on the arm. The Mossbauer and APXS both take a long time (hours to days depending on how detailed a result you want) so there wasn't anything flashy to show. After that they drove to a nearby rock. They released images of the traverse and the rock today.

        There will be another slowdown in MER-A activities as MER-B arrives on Wednesday. They were talking about finding a

      • BTW, anyone know why there hasn't been any new Spirt images in the last 3 or 4 days?

        You mean, besides this [nasa.gov], this [nasa.gov], or this [nasa.gov]?

        I have no idea, but have you checked the website [nasa.gov]? :)

  • The article says the image provided is at 12 m resolution.

    Not sure where the conversion went wrong.

    -Cyc
  • Keyhole? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Andorion (526481) on Monday January 19, 2004 @01:25PM (#8022810)
    It would be cool if they mapped this high resolution surface in Keyhole [keyhole.com].

    It already has Mars, but it's very low resolution (and not very 3d.)

    ~Berj
  • Right, so that image they put up is nifty and shows that they have been able to extrapolate altitude from the stereo aspect of the cam.

    But for those of us who like to do our own 3D modeling, when will they release the whole-planet texture and heightmaps (a la NASA's Blue Planet, as mentioned by another poster)? I want to be able to load that stuff up and then make my own animations of probes/ships/etc., complete with landing and interacting with the environment.

    Besides, without that data, how can I s
  • map prices (Score:2, Interesting)

    by xyr0 (678756)
    will the images be publicly available for download? i remember that the esa and nasa mapped earth with a stereo antenna from the space shuttle and that the data costs a buck load of money to use.
  • Hmmm (Score:3, Funny)

    by cascino (454769) on Monday January 19, 2004 @01:39PM (#8022931) Homepage
    Well, now we know why Beagle 2 didn't survive...
    http://www.esa.int/export/SPECIALS/Mars_Express/SE MPM75V9ED_1.html [esa.int]
    • Re:Hmmm (Score:3, Funny)

      Looking at the photos I couldn't see an antena, though I am sure there must be one. Just imagine the scenario:

      ESA Engineer 1: ok, everything's finished, now I can't help thinking we forgot something?
      ESA Engineer 2: no, just checked, every sensor is there and then some, even the solar panels
      ESA Engineer 1: you're probably right, just my mind playing games.
      [4 months after landing]
      ESA Engineer 1: I knew it, we did forget something. Stupid designers forgot the aerial.
      ESA Engineer 2: Explains why we can't make
  • by Verteiron (224042) * on Monday January 19, 2004 @01:41PM (#8022950) Homepage
    ... so I can make a normalmap out of it, dump it into Celestia [shatters.net] and watch it bring my computer to a screeching halt.

    Talk about fun!
  • by Tagren (715283) on Monday January 19, 2004 @01:44PM (#8022986) Homepage Journal
    Hmm.. Mars = big. Rez 10m of mars... Fullsize pictures. "Calling ISP to ask for bandwidth"...
    ---
  • ...reminds me of one good old computer game:

    Zak McKracken.

    Not that there are martians, but it reminds me of artist's renderings of martian desert at 320x200, 4bpp :)

  • I have to say that I'm amazed with the claim that Mars is being mapped better than the Earth. I don't like the associative suggestion that somehow we know more about Mars than the Earth. We don't.

    There's probably not a spot on the surface of the Earth that has not been visited by a human, while on Mars we can't even decide if the ground is muddy or not. We know so little about the red planet.
  • by tjstork (137384) <todd.bandrowsky@gm a i l.com> on Monday January 19, 2004 @02:20PM (#8023373) Homepage Journal

    But wow, look at what's going on on the ground. The new rover images are really remarkable.

    I feel bad for the Europeans and the loss of the Beagle. Hopefully this won't dissuade European policy makers from continuing to explore the stars, and honestly, a friendly rivalry will help the space programs on all continents.

    It seems better to have nations compete to build spacecraft to expore the heavens with than it is to have them compete to build more armies with.
  • They want to make the most realistic levels ever made.
  • Bush's big idea (Score:3, Insightful)

    by fiannaFailMan (702447) on Monday January 19, 2004 @02:27PM (#8023454) Journal
    These successful missions may end up becoming fewer and further between in future, thanks to you-know-who.

    CNN has an article [cnn.com] about Bush's sudden fascination with the space program and it points out how he never once visited the NASA facilities in Houston while he was governor there. Also the convenient timing of his announcement that just happens to coincide with the Democrat front-runners ganging up on Howard Dean is mentioned.

    One of the first casualties of the cuts that are necessary to make Bush's 'vision' a reality has been the Hubble, as reported in New Scientist [newscientist.com].

    See also some concise reporting [economist.com] from the Economist that takes a cold, unemotional look at the question of whether or not we actually need manned spaceflight at all. From that article:

    [H]is grand announcement this week may not, in the end, amount to anything more than starry-eyed campaign rhetoric. Of course, only an incorrigible cynic could possibly conclude that Mr Bush knows this perfectly well--and intends simply to let the whole thing fade away after it has helped him get re-elected.
    Excuse me for sounding like an 'incorrigible cynic,' but the guy doesn't exactly have a good record with telling the truth.

    I digress.

    That paper has long held an anti-manned-spaceflight view, which I would say is a bit short-sighted in view of the vulnerability of Earth to catastrophic bombardments from above.

  • by phkamp (524380) on Monday January 19, 2004 @02:31PM (#8023495) Homepage
    I think the point being missed here is that very few mappings have been done of Earth using *the same single instrument*.

    A very good illustration of how important this became available when the Hiparcos and Tycho star-catalogs were produced by the Hiparcos satellite (also ESA).

    When the resulting catalog were compared to ground based astrometric catalogs, every single one of them showed systematic errors of varying magnitude.

    Even with the best instruments and the most careful technicians and scientists, systematic errors between instruments, methods and setups exist. When it comes to consistency, a single instrument in a single setup beats anything else.

    I don't doubt that military "assets" exist which can image the birds in my garden playing soccer with breadcrumbs but they have never made a global map (even ignoring the two thirds which is water) with the same single instrument.

    SAREX came close, but no cigar: the polar caps were missing.

    I think ESAs claim stands: They're doing it better than we ever bothered to do it here.

    Poul-Henning
    • "Even with the best instruments and the most careful technicians and scientists, systematic errors between instruments, methods and setups exist. When it comes to consistency, a single instrument in a single setup beats anything else.
      "
      And when it comes to consistency... a single instrument can make the most monumentally consistent error... it helps to have other instruments and methods to compare against here...
  • Recent polls say as many as 61% of Americans are against the idea of spending money on a mission to Mars (or the moon, or anywhere interesting, really). Fine. Who needs 'em?

    I fired off an email to NASA [mailto] to see if there was a way I could bypass Congress and give them money directly (they take my money anyway, so why shouldn't I be allowed to add to it?). No response as of yet (sent it on the 15th), and I figure odds are any response I'll get will boil down to "What, are you crazy?" but the pessimist in me
  • Look at how new those valleys look!
    Virtually free of craters.
    I suppose that determines their age, within some bounds, to some probability.

    And eventually, we'll find out if the flat bottoms of the valleys are indeed accumulated dust/talus, or ? I notice that the wallpaper colors them rather whitish, as if they were icy. Is this just wishful thinking on the part of the wallpaper renderer?

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