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Picture This: Spacecraft Camera Captures Images of Mars with Optical Glass Standards

New York, May 29, 2008

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)’s latest mission, the Phoenix Mars Lander, is drawing attention worldwide for the remarkable photographs and data that it has collected ever since its successful landing in the polar region of Mars on May 25, 2008.

The Lander is designed to collect samples of soil and water ice from Mars for sophisticated scientific analysis. With these samples, scientists will be able to study the history of water in the Martian arctic, and investigate the possibility of former or current life on Mars. A Robotic Arm (RA) on the spacecraft uses ripper tines (sharp prongs) and serrated blades to dig trenches, scoop up soil and water ice samples, and deliver these samples to the Microscopy, Electrochemistry and Conductivity Analyzer for detailed chemical and geological analysis.

Mounted on the RA is a special Robotic Arm Camera (RAC), built by the University of Arizona and the Max Planck Institute. This camera delivers close-up, full-color images of Mars’s surface, prospective soil and water ice samples, verification of collected soil and ice water samples, and the floor and side-walls of the trenches dug by the robotic arm. These images will provide insight to scientists on the nature of the soil and water ice samples, as well as information on climate changes throughout the planet's history.

Voluntary consensus standards help double Gauss lens systems like the RAC’s to take reliable, accurate pictures. ANSI/OEOSC OP3.001-2001, Optical Glass is an American National Standard developed by Optics and Electro-Optics Standards Council. This standard establishes uniform practices for stating and interpreting specifications, tolerances, and functional requirements for optical glass that is used to fabricate lenses and other optical elements.

The Phoenix Lander has sent back several sharp color images from Mars, including pictures taken by the Lander's Surface Stereo Imager on landing day, and several more taken during first two full "sols," or Martian days, after landing.

For more information on the Phoenix Mars Lander, visit NASA’s website. To see the images taken by the Robotic Arm Camera, click here.

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