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Mars Phoenix only B/W photos

Mars Phoenix Lander ONLY
Capable Of B/W Photos?

By Ted Twietmeyer


MYTH about Mars Phoenix Lander stereoscopic imager only being capable of black and white images

There is a myth circulating around the web that the stereoscopic imager on the Phoenix Lander is only a monochrome (black and white) camera. Since monochrome CCD cameras have a superior resolution to color CCD cameras, it is claimed or implied by some this is why NASA did not display color images the night the Phoenix Lander sent the first images to Earth. This is a defective argument, since it denies that the camera can take color images although this requires the use of three movable filters at 600, 530 and 480nm.

Color images posted the day after the landing are available at and the University of Arizona website. Apparently "the future" NASA referred to, was to be the very next day.

Obviously, color images carry far more content and data than monochrome images. It is possible that NASA didn't want to wait for color images, but one would still have expected that such a momentous first polar landing event would have been in color.

NASA was forced to be somewhat blind for precision near-Mars landing site selection. A camera designed and programmed by Malin Space Science Systems (MSSS) was designed just for this function ­ to send back images below the spacecraft during the landing phase of the mission. However, a software crash problem with the camera's rapid imaging software could not be resolved in time for the mission. The camera was actually mounted on the spacecraft during final assembly, but it was never activated according to NASA. It is essentially a dead camera.

In my previous report on the landing at I made the following statement:

"The color images from Mars are obtained from a solid state camera, very similar to a typical camcorder or cell phone which almost everyone owns today (but much higher resolution.) Color information is already present in Mars images, but clearly this was deleted for reasons not explained."

I did not say it was the SAME CCD as a camcorder or cell phone, but SIMILAR. I did not state the camera had a color CCD chip. But I did state it has a much higher resolution than a camcorder or cellphone.

My statement "color information is already present in Mars images" should be clarified. I was referring to the fact that the planet has many colors other than red (which is almost all we ever hear about from NASA) and that the stereoscopic imager has the capability to take color images. In fact, the stereoscopic imager camera has a total of 12 filters covering the visible and invisible spectrum.

A comment about the camera resolution is found at :

"The Robotic Arm Camera is able to take full-color pictures of the area and the samples, and has a resolution of 23 microns per pixel at the closest focus, far greater than the cameras on the Spirit and Opportunity rovers."

When NASA interviewer Gay Yee Hill asked the NASA project manager the night of the landing if we would be seeing color images, his answer after a long pause was, "in the future we would." This is exactly what I reported previously at

Having researched more than 200 artifacts of both natural and artificial origin in rover images for my book "What NASA Isn't Telling You About Mars," it became clear that NASA does not want to find these and neither does it ever discuss them.

Now NASA has recently stated that the temperatures have dropped to more than -100 at night. I'll be researching to find out why the Phoenix solar panels are not damaged by this temperature - and how these panels can still charge the batteries even though this is far below the temperature of known solar panels to function. It doesn't warm up on Mars until the Martian afternoon at the pole. Perhaps they are heated from underneath using Polonium.

Ted Twietmeyer



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