NASA releases people's pick of Mars photos

Posted by Emma Woollacott

NASA has released the first Mars pictures commissioned by the public - and there's not a thumbprint or double exposure among them.

The pictures form part of the HiWish project, and have been taken by the HiRISE camera, nicknamed the people's camera, aboard NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

Scientists have received around 1,000 suggestions from the public for photographic targets, and has released the first eight images.

"NASA's Mars program is a prime example of what we call participatory exploration," NASA administrator Charlie Bolden said. "To allow the public to aim a camera at a specific site on a distant world is an invaluable teaching tool that can help educate and inspire our youth to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math."

"Some people get into model railroading or Civil War re-enactments. My thing is exploring Mars," said James Secosky, a retired teacher in Manchester, NY, who suggested an area for HiRISE imaging after he examined online images from other Mars-orbiting cameras.

HiRISE is one of six instruments on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Launched in August 2005, it reached Mars the following year to begin a two-year primary science mission.

The spacecraft will continue to take several thousand images a year, and has already returned more data about Mars than all other spacecraft to the planet combined.

"What we hope is that people become more interested in science and appreciate this opportunity to explore another world," said Alfred McEwen, principal investigator for the camera at the University of Arizona in Tucson.

"We appreciate fresh thinking outside the box and look for things we may not have chosen otherwise. It's good to have a lot of eyes on Mars."