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Setting our sights on the secrets of Mars

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Setting our sights on the secrets of Mars
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The European Space Agency's (ESA) Mars Express spacecraft has been orbiting our neighbouring planet since 25 December 2003. One of seven instruments on board is the high performance camera HRSC (High Resolution Stereo Camera), operated by the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR).

The HRSC is the first photographic system on board a planetary mission that is able to take pictures of the surface at a high resolution of down to ten metres per pixel in both colour and three dimensions simultaneously. The camera scans the planet's surface at various observation angles using nine light-sensitive sensors. Using stereoscopic imaging techniques, digital terrain models can be derived from the image data. These are used to determine the height on Mars for every pixel in the images. The goal of the experiment is to create a topographic map of the entire Martian surface. A little over two-thirds of the planet has already been recorded.

Credit: DLR/EADS.