Malin Space Science Systems

Malin Space Science Systems

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Malin Space Science Systems (or MSSS) is a San Diego, California
California
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

 company that designs, develops, and operates instruments to fly on unmanned spacecraft. MSSS is headed by chief scientist and CEO Michael C. Malin
Michael C. Malin
Michael C. Malin is an American astronomer, space-scientist, and CEO of Malin Space Science Systems. His cameras have been important scientific instruments in the Exploration of Mars....

.

Founded in 1990, their first mission was the failed 1993 Mars Observer
Mars Observer
The Mars Observer spacecraft, also known as the Mars Geoscience/Climatology Orbiter, was a 1,018-kilogram robotic space probe launched by NASA on September 25, 1992 to study the Martian surface, atmosphere, climate and magnetic field...

 for which they developed and operated the Mars Observer Camera Ground Data System. After this mission they were selected to provide the main camera for Mars Global Surveyor
Mars Global Surveyor
The Mars Global Surveyor was a US spacecraft developed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and launched November 1996. It began the United States's return to Mars after a 10-year absence. It completed its primary mission in January 2001 and was in its third extended mission phase when, on 2...

. They also developed the cameras that were carried on Mars Polar Lander
Mars Polar Lander
The Mars Polar Lander, also referred to as the Mars Surveyor '98 Lander, was a 290-kilogram robotic spacecraft lander, launched by NASA on January 3, 1999, to study the soil and climate of Planum Australe, a region near the south pole on Mars, as part of the Mars Surveyor '98 mission...

, Mars Climate Orbiter
Mars Climate Orbiter
The Mars Climate Orbiter was a 338 kilogram robotic space probe launched by NASA on December 11, 1998 to study the Martian climate, atmosphere, surface changes and to act as the communications relay in the Mars Surveyor '98 program, for Mars Polar Lander...

, 2001 Mars Odyssey
2001 Mars Odyssey
2001 Mars Odyssey is a robotic spacecraft orbiting the planet Mars. The project was developed by NASA, and contracted out to Lockheed Martin, with an expected cost for the entire mission of US$297 million. Its mission is to use spectrometers and electronic imagers to hunt for evidence of past or...

, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter
Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter
Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is a NASA multipurpose spacecraft designed to conduct reconnaissance and Exploration of Mars from orbit...

 and Phoenix lander
Phoenix (spacecraft)
Phoenix was a robotic spacecraft on a space exploration mission on Mars under the Mars Scout Program. The Phoenix lander descended on Mars on May 25, 2008...

.

One of the most successful of their instruments to date was the Mars Observer Camera (MOC), on board the Mars Global Surveyor placed into orbit around Mars
Mars
Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun in the Solar System. The planet is named after the Roman god of war, Mars. It is often described as the "Red Planet", as the iron oxide prevalent on its surface gives it a reddish appearance...

 in September 1997. From that date till November 2006, the MOC took more than 243,000 images of Mars, some at very high resolution. Among the MOCs notable successes was the imaging of the landing sites of the two Mars Exploration Rover
Mars Exploration Rover
NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Mission is an ongoing robotic space mission involving two rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, exploring the planet Mars...

s (the discarded heatshield of one of the rovers was located). Even before they landed, images from the MOC were very useful in picking the destinations of the two rovers.

After more than nine years of active duty, the Mars Global Surveyor ceased sending data back to Earth and it is now lost along with all its instruments, including the MOC.
For the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter
Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter
Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is a NASA multipurpose spacecraft designed to conduct reconnaissance and Exploration of Mars from orbit...

, launched on August 12, 2005, MSSS built the Mars Color Imager (MARCI) which takes wide angle, daily global views of Mars and the Context Imager (CTX) which has a six metre resolution.

In 2011 the Mars Science Laboratory
Mars Science Laboratory
The Mars Science Laboratory is a National Aeronautics and Space Administration mission with the aim to land and operate a rover named Curiosity on the surface of Mars. The MSL was launched November 26, 2011, at 10:02 EST and is scheduled to land on Mars at Gale Crater between August 6 and 20, 2012...

 will be launched and it will carry three MSSS cameras. The MastCam will be the main camera on board taking still and motion images of the surrounding. The 'HandLens Imager' will be on the instrument arm and provide close up images of martian soil and rocks. Finally the Mars Descent Imager (MARDI) will provide high resolution images of the ground during descent.

In December 2004, MSSS was selected to provide three cameras for the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter
Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter
The Lunar Precursor Robotic Program is a program of robotic spacecraft missions which NASA will use to prepare for future human spaceflight missions to the Moon. Two LPRP missions, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite , were launched in June 2009...

 (2008) mission, under contract to Northwestern University. In addition, MSSS is developing JunoCam
JunoCam
JunoCam is a visible-light camera/telescope for the Juno Jupiter Orbiter, a NASA space probe to the planet Jupiter launched on 5 August 2011...

 for the Juno Jupiter Mission
Juno (spacecraft)
Juno is a NASA New Frontiers mission to the planet Jupiter. Juno was launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on August 5, 2011. The spacecraft is to be placed in a polar orbit to study the planet's composition, gravity field, magnetic field, and polar magnetosphere...

, launching in ~2011.

Liquid water on Mars


In June 2000, evidence for water currently under the surface of Mars was discovered in the form of flood-like gullies. The question that was immediately asked was: is this an on-going process or is this ancient and simply well preserved evidence of water/liquid flow? Most scientists agree that it is highly likely that water did flow on Mars in the distant past.

Malin's camera controllers attempted to answer this question by taking photos of the same locations and in 2005 observation showed two areas where change had clearly occurred within the time of the photos (in other words, the activity was happening in present time and was not ancient).

On December 6, 2006, MSSS announced that it had discovered evidence that liquid water had likely flown on Mars
Mars
Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun in the Solar System. The planet is named after the Roman god of war, Mars. It is often described as the "Red Planet", as the iron oxide prevalent on its surface gives it a reddish appearance...

 within the past five years. At a press conference, NASA
NASA
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is the agency of the United States government that is responsible for the nation's civilian space program and for aeronautics and aerospace research...

 showed images taken by the Mars Global Surveyor
Mars Global Surveyor
The Mars Global Surveyor was a US spacecraft developed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and launched November 1996. It began the United States's return to Mars after a 10-year absence. It completed its primary mission in January 2001 and was in its third extended mission phase when, on 2...

 that suggested that water occasionally flows on the surface of Mars. The images did not actually show flowing water. Rather, they showed changes in craters and sediment deposits, providing the strongest evidence yet that water coursed through them as recently as several years ago, and is perhaps doing so even now. The findings were published in the December 8, 2006 issue of the journal Science
Science (journal)
Science is the academic journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and is one of the world's top scientific journals....

.

Malin Systems published several documents which describe what they found:

Before the December 2006 paper, some researchers were skeptical that liquid water was responsible for the surface features seen by the spacecraft. They said other materials such as sand or dust can flow like a liquid and produce similar results. At this stage, (late 2006) the flowing water hypothesis looks strong, however more evidence is needed. For more, see Life on Mars
Life on Mars
Scientists have long speculated about the possibility of life on Mars owing to the planet's proximity and similarity to Earth. Fictional Martians have been a recurring feature of popular entertainment of the 20th and 21st centuries, but it remains an open question whether life currently exists on...

.

Geysers on Mars




The MSSS cameras on board the Mars Global Surveyor, produced high resolution images that were also processed by Malin Space Science Systems, and discovered the intriguing polar features informally known as 'dark dune spots' and 'spiders'. The origin of dark dune spots and the dark slope streaks emanating from them is yet uncertain, and various hypotheses have been put forward on their origin and formation process. The current model proposed by NASA and European teams propose cold geyser-like systems that eject CO2 and dark basaltic sand. The seasonal frosting of some areas near the southern ice cap results in the formation of transparent 1 metre thick slabs of dry ice above the ground. With the arrival of spring, sunlight warms the subsurface and pressure from subliming CO2 builds up under a slab, elevating and ultimately rupturing it. This leads to geyser-like eruptions of CO2 gas mixed with dark basaltic sand or dust. This process is rapid, observed happening in the space of a few days, weeks or months, a growth rate rather unusual in geology - especially for Mars. The gas rushing underneath a slab to the site of a geyser carves a spider-like pattern of radial channels under the ice.


List of products


Malin manufactured the following cameras for NASA spacecrafts:
  • Mars Color Imager
  • Context (CTX) Camera
  • Mars Orbiter Camera
    Mars Orbiter Camera
    The Mars Orbiter Camera or Mars Observer Camera was a scientific instrument on board the Mars Observer and Mars Global Surveyor spacecrafts...

  • JunoCam
    JunoCam
    JunoCam is a visible-light camera/telescope for the Juno Jupiter Orbiter, a NASA space probe to the planet Jupiter launched on 5 August 2011...


External links