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Launched August 12, 2005, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is searching for evidence that water persisted on the surface of Mars by closely scanning the surface of the planet, analyzing minerals, searching for subsurface water, observing dust and water patterns in the atmosphere, and monitoring daily weather. Kodak Image Sensors are used in two key components of the orbiter: the Mars Color Imager, used to provide daily weather reports for the planet, and the Context Camera, which captures wide-area views of the surface to help provide a context for high-resolution analysis of key locations on the planet. Both of these systems – designed and operated by Malin Space Science Systems Inc. – are based on Kodak CCD Image Sensors used in applications here on Earth.
Daily weather data for Mars is collected by the orbiter using the Mars Color Imager (MARCI), a camera which monitors the surface and atmosphere of the planet across five visible and two ultraviolet wavelengths. This camera is based on the Kodak KAI-1001 Image Sensor, a one-megapixel device that provides both high sensitivity and high dynamic range. The orbiter soon will have collected a full Martian year of weather data using this camera, and weekly weather reports based on this data are available.
The orbiter’s Context Camera (CTX) is based on the Kodak KLI-5001 Image Sensor, a 5,000-pixel linear CCD device that scans the surface of the planet as the orbiter passes overhead. Providing a resolution of six meters per pixel (allowing features the size of a large pick-up truck to be detected), this camera has now mapped over one-third of the planet’s surface, and is also being used to help evaluate potential landing sites for the 2009 Mars Science Laboratory rover mission.
Kodak has a rich history of supplying CCD image sensors used in missions to other planets. In 1997, Kodak KAI-0371 Image Sensors served as the “eyes” of the Sojourner Rover that first traveled on the surface of Mars. The KODAK KAF-1001 Image Sensor used on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter flew on both the Mars Climate Orbiter and Mars Polar Lander missions, and can be found today in the Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS) camera of the Mars Odyssey Orbiter and in the Super Resolution Channel (SRC) camera of the Mars Express orbiter. The Venus Monitoring Camera (VMC) of the Venus Express orbiter is based on the KODAK KAI-1010 Image Sensor, and KODAK CCD Image Sensors are also used routinely in cameras operated by astronauts on both the International Space Station as well as across the space shuttle fleet.
Upcoming space missions will further expand the use of KODAK Image Sensors to include not only orbiters around both the moon and Jupiter, but also a new mission back to Mars – the Mars Science Laboratory rover, which is scheduled to launch in 2009. KODAK CCD Image Sensors will be used on four separate camera systems on this mission, including the Mars Descent Imager (recently delivered to NASA / JPL) as well as the Mast Camera, the science imaging “workhorse” of the rover.