A New Camera at Mars
November 29th, 2016, 2:40PMAlthough the lander half of the ExoMars mission didn’t make it, the European Space Agency is very pleased so far with the Trace Gas Orbiter, which sent back its first images of the Mars surface this week. The orbiter is going to take another year to get into its final orbit, but that doesn’t mean mission scientists can’t get its instruments up and running. The image at right is from the Colour and Stereo Surface Imaging System, or CaSSIS, showing a crater a bit smaller than a mile wide that’s on the rim of a much more massive crater at about 23 feet per pixel, taken as the orbiter did a low pass just 155 miles altitude. The camera is able to take short exposures extremely rapidly (one of the pictures it sent down this week took an exposure lasting 700 microseconds every 150 millisecond). Eventually, scientists at the Astronomical Observatory of Padova in Italy will be able to take CaSSIS data and create stereo images, with which they can make 3D reconstructions of Martian features.