Open challenge to Dr. Philip Christensen:

April 27, 2002

Dear Sir,

It is a few weeks until the THREE ( 3 ) month anniversary of the 'official' Mission Start phase for the Mars Odyssey spacecraft named after famous scientist and author Sir Arthur C. Clarke's ground-breaking movie, 2001 A Space Odyssey.  It is the FIRST movie I remember seeing with my father, and only him.  A truly shared moment that will forever shape who I am constantly becoming.  Your instrument, THEMIS is named after the Greek Goddess of Justice who holds out a balance for equality and a sword for strength in enforcing that equality, and a blindfold to indicate that ALL should be treated equally in those ideals.

Many people may not be aware that while the THEMIS camera system is acquiring images now, it is due for a shut-down in a few months for nearly an entire Earth year!  And as of today, despite repeated pleas, calls, and yes taunts, for a TRUE COLOR image of that enigmatic orb called Mars, your team has failed to deliver such.  Despite the FACT that with EVERY black and white image you acquire in ANY particular Visible Image System (VIS) band, of the five (5) available, ALL, repeat ALL the other 4 bands actually ARE acquired by the sensor array at the same time.  You selectively choose which band for the sensor to send to the computer, sort-a like highlighting only 1/5 th of a page of text for the layperson out here.  For those common folks out there,  that means that the sensor array ( page of text ) is ALWAYS full, only certain portions are selected or 'highlighted' to send or 'copy' to the computer's internal buses, memory and CPU systems and transfer to Earth.  The FULL COLOR IMAGE or FULL PAGE OF TEXT, is ALWAYS there (on the sensor) with every image capture.  EVERY TIME!  There is also a non-redundant 1 GB image memory card on-board the spacecraft.

Now, to be fair, the more bands used, or the more 'text' you highlight, the more memory and cpu power is required to handle that data; and there is only so much space there to work with on board the spacecraft.  However, there are certain areas on Mars where the TRUE COLOR and the FULL INFRARED spectrum images, which CAN be acquired AT THE SAME TIME, should be done no matter the bandwidth and transmission time.  

from your own kind posting of THEMIS capabilities

Image Memory Size: 
25.6 Mb/image @ 9 spectral bands
15.06 Mb/image @ 9 spectral bands (compressed)
5.12 Mb/image @ 2 bands
3.01 Mb/image @ 2 bands (compressed)

and that was for the infrared only!!! Here's the VISUAL COLOR info:

Image Memory Size: 

40.72 Mb/image @ 5 bands
23.95 Mb/image @ 5 bands (compressed)
8.14 Mb/image @ 1 band
4.79 Mb/image @ 1 band (compressed)

We know that TRUE COLOR images are possible to be DIRECTLY transmitted to Earth from the spacecraft without the further need of 'processing' the bands here.


we get:


8. Can the THEMIS IR and VIS detectors image the same area on Mars at the same time?

Yes, with limitations. The VIS cross-track footprint is 18.4 km, versus 32 km for the IR. In the along-track direction, the VIS frame size is limited by its 4 Mbyte data buffer size. The along-track dimension can be 15-65 km, depending on the number of bands used (65 km is the maximum for a single-band image). On any given swath, the VIS data must "wait" for the IR data collection to finish before being transferred to the spacecraft, since the VIS and IR share a single high-rate data interface.


In this very FIRST period of imaging opportunity for the THEMIS camera system that place should be Cydonia, ALL of it.  It won't EVER get 'squelched for good' no matter how many 'Middle Butte' Press Releases you end up turning into  'Camel Humps' of the tortured vaulted scientific methodological process of HONEST SCIENTIFIC INQUIRY! 

Acquire FULL SPECTRUM data and RELEASE that data for the Cydonia area, and quickly before the first imaging sequence period is over, and to release that information along with the raw data which would include the ancillary data.  Again if you do not have time to geometrically deal with the flood of data, there are many people out here who can, and have the time, talent and scientific expertise to do the job in an honest and open scientific methodological manner, AND have it peer reviewed.  

I personally would prefer YOU do this with the Cydonia area, but it seems to be 'politically' charged so much that your efforts may be at someone else's cross-purposes in releasing such inane, ridiculous and absolutely pitiful attempts at psuedo-debunkery of the Cydonia area [and the Face in particular, not to mention the D & M Pyramid or the Smoking Pyramid] that only hurt the overall image of the great folks like yourself doing exemplary work in difficult conditions.  So I would prefer that you and YOUR team fully delve into this area with the FULL SPECTRUM of the entire area taken and released and have a public 'round-table' on what the data is and means for all of humanity.

Now to address some questions that many other Mars enthusiasts have been arguing about whether THEMIS is actually capable of 'TRUE COLOR'  ie RGB values that fit the response spectrum of the human eye from orbit.

Color Science:

The spectra below were generated using different RGB values for wavelengths between 380nm and 780nm.


Table 4-4.THEMIS Visible Band Characteristics
Band Center Wavelength Bandwidth 
1 0.870 Ám 
2 0.423 Ám 
3 0.652 Ám 
4 0.751 Ám 
5 0.553 Ám 
So, from what I can tell the 'generalized' colors represented by the 5 filters are:

1-deep red , 2-blueish, 3-yellow/red, 4-red, 5-green

And now for the Human Eye also from above link:


The three white curves below indicate the sensitivity level for the three types of cones. The black curve indicates the sensitivity of the rods.



So, in the final analysis, I was right all along that:

1. THEMIS is quite capable of acquiring TRUE COLOR images of the surface of Mars.

2. THEMIS can acquire ALL 5 bands at once.

3. THEMIS can also, simultaneously acquire a FULL infrared spectrum of the EXACT same terrain as the VIS system in real-time.


And the final question remains:

Why hasn't this been done for the area on Mars that has captured the MOST public awareness by the taxpaying public, which has footed the bill for your half-billion buck-a-roo project.  After loosing over a BILLION dollars due to math errors and other foibles in the MCO and MPL, it is not only my opinion, but many many people's opinion that THIS mission deserves a more open and honest policy in its relations to the public.  We appreciate the 'daily' releases, but the ancillary data is missing.  Why embargo the ancillary data from a press release image?  The image is already out there, the ancillary data can only HELP us understand the data and the image, hiding it only hurts the credibility of the team producing it.  There is no logical reason to hide ancillary data from an already publicly released image like Dr. Mike Malin of MSSS has done with the April 8, 2001 Cydonia Face image for more than 12 ( TWELVE ) months now on a 6 month 'official embargo policy'.  He's six months late on his 'payment'.  I hope THEMIS does NOT head down that road.  According to your OWN documents:

the very FIRST scheduled data release according to that policy is due August 19, 2002 for the ENTIRE first month of operations of THEMIS to be hosted at your University PDS satellite site.  I, and other taxpayers, consider that policy to be a promise we hope you keep.

We are simple to please out here really.  

1.  Say what you mean, and mean what you say.


2. Don't make promises or policy you don't intended to keep, and to keep the promises and follow the policies you do make.

It really IS that simple.

Thank you for all your and your team's efforts.  They really are appreciated.  We have waited so long, gone through so many disappointments, put up with late releases, and pseudo-science by Press Release that we are just plain tired of the 'run-around'.  The artificiality of various features in Cydonia holds much more promise, more science and more excitement for human growth than the geological timetable for various levels of lava around Olympus Mons.  It is PAST time that all the scientific instruments we have to bear, are brought to bear on that enigmatic area and settle some of these questions once and for all, with COLOR and FULL SPECTRUM images.  

Let's taunt a Billionaire to Mars ! ! ! Beats Begging.

Think out there act down here... NOW ! ! ! Have YOU ??

Give a High School kid a reason to care...a spacewalk. 
Teach 'em a lesson in teamwork.
Teach 'em a lesson in humanity.

Bob... ;-{)

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