Today’s post – part of a series of reports marking the MEX 10th anniversary – was submitted by the Mars Express imaging team at Freie Universität Berlin – Ed.

Who would have thought, 10 years ago, that the brave MEX spacecraft would be still alive today?

For 10 years, the High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) onboard Mars Express has provided astonishing images of the surface of Mars in colour and in 3D. From the beginning on, the breathtaking colour images from Mars delighted both the public and the scientists.

For scientists, the Digital Elevation Models (DEMs) derived from the stereo images provided a major step forward in the precise analysis of the martian surface, and the wide and long image swaths give excellent overviews of the terrain and its geological context.

HRSC image of Valles Marineris, the Solar System’s grandest canyon!
Credits: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin (G. Neukum)

The public also made use of the HRSC data, not only from our Press Archive where the best images of the returned data are presented, but for example also using HRSC data in the Google Earth-Mars interface. Bit by bit, Mars turns into HRSC colour. Very much appreciated were also the HRSC-movies, created with the Digital Elevation Models and including, for example, a fly-through of the “Grand Canyon” of Mars, Valles Marineris.

Throughout the last decade the HRSC team has recorded 95.5% of the martian surface at a resolution of 60 m/pixel or better and 66.8% with a resolution of 12.5-20 m/pixel.

Due to the elliptical orbit of Mars Express, major challenges had to be mastered concerning the processing of the data and the photogrammetry. Furthermore, much patience was required due to dust-storms and clouds in the atmosphere, which reduced the data quality. Therefore, several regions were targeted multiple times.

Comparing the first images recorded by HRSC with those acquired today, there is no question that with improved image processing techniques the quality of image and DEM products have very much improved over the past 10 years .

The success story of Mars Express continues and we look forward to fully image the Red Planet with HRSC at highest resolution.

Happy Birthday Mars Express!!