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High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE)

NSSDCA ID: 2005-029A-01

Mission Name: Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter
Principal Investigator:Dr. Alfred S. McEwen


The High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is a multi-color stereo imaging system designed to take high-resolution images of the surface and atmosphere of Mars. The primary science goals of the instrument are to investigate a wide range of geologic and climatic processes, with emphasis on distinguishing between deposits and landforms resulting from aqueous, eolian, volcanic, or other processes. The high-level science objectives are to (1) characterize the current climate and mechanisms of climate change, (2) determine the nature of complex layered terrain, (3) identify water-related landforms, (4) search for sites showing evidence for aqueous and/or hydrothermal activity, and (5) identify and characterize sites with the highest potential for landed science and sample return by future missions. These objectives will be achieved by returning high-resolution images allowing detection of surface features, using stereo images to derive topographic data and digital elevation models, and acquiring 3-color observations for photometric studies.

The HiRISE instrument consists of an all-relective three mirror astigmatic Cassegrain f/24 telescope with a 12 m focal length, Zerodur optics and a graphite fiber reinforced composite structure, 70 cm in diameter by 140 cm in length. Light enters the instrument through a baffle tube and reflects off a 50 cm diameter primary mirror to a secondary mirror, a fold mirror, a tertiary mirror, a Lyot stop, a second fold mirror and through a set of three filters. The filters are blue-green (400-600 nm), red (550-850 nm), and near infrared (800-1000 nm), and are mounted in front of a set of 14 detector-chip-assemblies (DCA's) housing charge-coupled devices (CCD's). Each CCD has 2048 12 x 12 micrometer pixels in the cross-scan direction and 128 time delay and integration (TDI) detector elements in the along-track direction. The 14 staggered detectors overlap by 48 pixels at each end. The blue-green and near IR bands have two DCA's each giving a total swath width of 4048 pixels and the red channel has ten DCA's for a swath width of 20,264 pixels. The field of view is 1.14 x 0.18 degrees, at a nominal altitude of 300 km HiRISE has a resolution of 30 cm/pixel and a swath width of about 1.2 km for the blue-green and near IR bands and 6 km for the red band. The maximum image size is 20,000 x 65,000 pixels and onboard data storage is 28 Gbits. Data can be compressed and binned in real time to allow more efficient storage and transmission and to create larger area, lower resolution images. Signal to noise ratio is 100:1. The nominal science orbit is 255 x 320 km with periapsis at south pole, a 3 p.m. local ground time and a track velocity of 3400 m/s. The instrument is rigidly mounted on the spacecraft, ground velocity is accounted for by pixel integration. Total development cost of HiRISE is estimated at $31 million.

Alternate Names

  • HiRISE
  • MarsReconnaissanceOrbiter/HiRISE
  • urn:nasa:pds:context:instrument:hirise.mro

Funding Agency

  • NASA-Office of Space Science Applications (United States)


  • Planetary Science: Geology and Geophysics

Additional Information

Questions and comments about this experiment can be directed to: Dr. David R. Williams



NameRoleOriginal AffiliationE-mail
Dr. Alfred S. McEwenPrincipal InvestigatorUniversity of

Selected References

  • McEwen, A. S., et al., Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter's High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE), J. Geophys. Res., 112, E05S02, doi:10.1029/2005JE002605, 2007.
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