GeekSpeak for 2003-08-15

Mapping Mars

Joe Day, Electro-Optical Engineer working on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter knows all about mapping on Mars. More specifically he knows about the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO ) being built by Lockhead-Martin. And even more specificly he knows aout the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE(High Resolution Imaging Sciance Experiment) ) which is one of the instruments of the Orbiter.Joe’s job is to help design and build the optics for the 50cm wide telescope that is the center of HiRISE(High Resolution Imaging Sciance Experiment) . The telescope will be coupled to a digital camera that takes pictures 20,000 pixels wide! That’s a picture over “40 TV sets by 40 TV sets”!


The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO ) is a satalite due to map the Martian surface. One of the scientific platforms and the system that our guest knows much about is the High Resolution Imaging Sciance Experiment (HiRISE(High Resolution Imaging Sciance Experiment) ). Joe Day is an electro-optical engineer at Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. in Boulder, Colorado, working on optics and detectors. He has a BS degree in physics from the University of Cincinnati and has worked at Ball for 25 years on military, commercial and NASA programs. Most recently he worked on the QuickBird instrument, which is part of a commercial imaging satellite built by Ball for Digital Globe. QuickBird produces the highest-resolution unclassified images of the Earth. Those images were shown frequently on CNN during the Iraq war. Day’s involvement on QuickBird was the integration and test of the instrument, i.e., making sure it was in focus and would produce sharp, clear images.

Day’s current involvement is with the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE), a digital camera similar to QuickBird that will orbit Mars and take high-resolution pictures of the Martian surface. It’s one of several sensors on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), which is being built for NASA/JPL and is scheduled to launch in August 2005. HiRISE will have five-times higher resolution than the present Mars Orbital Camera, which is currently orbiting Mars and produced the first high-resolution pictures of its surface. HiRISE will orbit Mars at an altitude of 300 km, and each pixel will subtend a 30 cm object (the size of a soccer ball) on the surface. Day is the telescope team leader responsible for designing, building and testing the HiRISE telescope, which is a giant telephoto lens for the digital camera. He will also be involved in integrating the telescope with the focal plane assembly and testing the complete digital camera. HiRISE will produce three-color and stereo images with a 1-meter spatial resolution and a swath width greater than 3.5 km. The main objectives of HiRISE are to characterize Mars landing sites and look for evidence of water and climate variations.
Day enjoys hiking, biking and rock climbing in the mountains of Colorado. He is also a stone sculptor and is currently learning the art of wood carving.