TES NEWS Volume 3, Number 4, November - December 1994

Assembling IMP to Take Pictures of Mars

by D. Britt (University of Arizona) and K. Edgett (Arizona State University)

We will soon get our first look at the martian landscape since the last Viking 1 lander images were transmitted to Earth in 1982. Mars Pathfinder, with a microrover on board, will land in an ancient flood channel, Ares Vallis, on July 4, 1997. The camera that will take the historic pictures is "IMP," the Imager for Mars Pathfinder. IMP is a team effort involving scientists and engineers at the University of Arizona (UA) in Tucson and the Martin Marietta Corporation. Dr. Peter Smith of UA is the principal investigator for the IMP team.

IMP is being assembled in three phases and will be launched onboard Pathfinder in December 1996. IMP is a CCD (digital) camera with 24 filters chosen to emphasize certain visible and near-infrared wavelengths that will provide information about minerals on the surface plus water vapor and dust in the atmosphere. The camera can also take stereo and color images, plus will monitor a magnetic particle experiment and wind socks that measure the speed and direction of the wind (see WIND SOCKS).

IMP was selected in May 1993 and construction of the Engineering Model (the first phase, a working model used to understand the problems that might be faced in building the actual space-qualified IMP) began in December 1993. The Engineering Model was completed in June 1994 and presently is being used for testing, software development, and calibration at UA.

The second phase is underway, with the assembly of the Prototype Model, and is expected to be complete by January 31, 1995. The final instrument, to be built in the third phase, is the Proto-Flight Unit, planned to be ready for integration with the Pathfinder spacecraft in mid-September 1995. The Proto-Flight Unit will be space-qualified and launched aboard Pathfinder in 1996; the Prototype Model will be used as a backup if necessary. The Engineering Model will be delivered to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL, in Pasadena, California) for use in their lander mock-up. The mock-up will be important for planning Pathfinder activities once the actual lander is on the Red Planet.

UA scientists are also putting together a "Mars Garden" at the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory on the Tucson campus. The idea is to provide the IMP team an outdoor facility under natural light conditions that contains realistic Mars analog soils, rocks, and landforms. Mars scientists at UA have been collecting the rocks and soil since September. The Mars Garden will be used to calibrate the camera, help develop image processing software, and provide JPL scientists a place to test the Pathfinder microrover. The IMP team was scheduled to complete "Mars-scaping" the garden in mid-November for microrover tests November 16-18, 1994.

Figures and More Information:

Pathfinder Figures in 1994-1995 Arizona Mars Education Guide

Jet Propulsion Laboratory MARS PATHFINDER HOME PAGE

Back to Contents of TES News November - December 1994

Edited by: K. S. Edgett

Arizona Mars K-12 Education Program / edgett@elvis.mars.asu.edu