Phobos, Up Close and Three-Dimensional

ESA’s Mars Express photographed Phobos from a distance of just 100km during the last of eight flybys of the martian moon on Jan 9. As a result, says the German Aerospace Center (DLR), researchers has been able to image the southern hemisphere of the 20km-wide moon with a resolution of just 3.8m per pixel.

Images: ESA

For those of you with the glasses, ESA has posted a 3D version of the image:

Because of the speed of the flyby – 2.3km/sec – Mars Express was programmed to slew during the rendezvous to keep the spacecraft’s High Resolutiuon Stereo Camera pointed at Phobos. Even then, Mars Express could only turn at 0.15deg/sec, rather than the 0.26deg/sec needed, so the images needed tweaking in post-processing.

DLR says the images will be used in planning Russia’s Phobos Grunt mission, set to begin in November. This includes plans for a lander to touch down on the moon, collect rock and dust samples, and return them by capsule to Earth. The lander will then spend a year on the surface of Phobos, measuring the martian environment.

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