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HiRISE Image Targeting Challenge
Welcome to the Archive of the Spring 2007 NASA Quest Challenge!
Help scientists at NASA by suggesting a target for HiRISE!
Calendar of Events below

Artist depiction of the MRO Spacecraft

This challenge is brought to you by MRO’s High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera team in collaboration with NASA Quest.  The HiRISE camera, now orbiting Mars onboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, is helping NASA to search for signs of past and present water on Mars.  Understanding the history of water on Mars helps scientists understand if there is now or ever has been life on Mars.

Scientists have argued for water on Mars since the first Viking images of Mars were returned nearly 30 years ago.  Since then, Mars Global Surveyor and Mars Odyssey have collected more images; now the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) is using a camera attached to a very powerful telescope to look down on the surface of Mars.

HiRISE is taking photos of Mars that are higher in resolution (~30cm/pixel), showing more detail, than any previous images.  Objects as small as a meter across, approximately the size of a teacher’s desk, can be seen in the HiRISE images.  This allows HiRISE to find small features like interior channels, streambed features, and layering.  Since the HiRISE camera is “zoomed in” to look at very small regions of Mars, it will only be able to image about 2% of the surface of the planet.  Thus each image has to count!

You are challenged to help choose some regions of Mars for HiRISE to image that probably contained water at the surface in the past.  The HiRISE team will pick several suggestions and image them with the camera in the coming months.  Your team will represent the first people on Earth to see the resulting image and will have the chance to search for signs of water in the image.

You can choose areas within a valley system or outflow channel (like the source region or other interesting spot on the floor or walls) or obtain a close-up of gullies imaged from past missions.  You can also choose to re-image an interesting site already seen in a HiRISE image to look for any changes that may indicate present geologic activity.

To increase your chances of getting your image picked sooner rather than later, here are a few tips:

  1. Don’t pick a dusty area.  A large fraction of the planet is covered in dust, and a lot of dust means that the surface features are hidden.  
  2. Pick a location either in the southern hemisphere or south of the mid-latitudes in the northern hemisphere.  We are coming up on Mars winter in the northern hemisphere, and it will be too dark to take good images far to the north. 
  3. Have a well thought out hypothesis for selecting this target location.

Unfortunately, due to time constraints of this first challenge, only a few of the suggestions will be taken during this semester, and be analyzed by school teams in time for the final webcast in May.  Very few images can be taken at any given time, and the camera is restricted by its orbital path and the time of year. In addition, HiRISE is one of several instruments on board the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter that also need to collect data and are allocated part of the data downlink volume. However, we will continue to release classroom suggested images on the HiRISE website each week, so even if your target is not selected this round, keep checking the website! You’ll also be able to see what other school groups have suggested and help in the analysis of those sites! We want all participating classes to analyze their favorite returned HiRISE image, whether or not the actually suggested it, and submit a report on their analysis.

See the calendar below for planning purposes. Prepare for the Challenge with some background references to learn about the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and Martian terrain options. Grade-specific Teacher's Guides and Student Activity Books, tutorials, and other helpful information are available in .pdf format from the HiRISE Learning and Activity Center. To browse the released HiRISE images and for additional information about HiRISE, visit the main HiRISE website at

Calendar of Events

March 2007 -


Begin preparation, understanding:

  • What the Mars HiRISE (High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment) is.
  • How is High Resolution photography going to affect what we are able to see?
  • What makes one site better than another in determining where water/life may have existed in the past?
  • Begin to form your opinion of where you would like to look.
  • Explore the Clickworkers to learn to recognize geologic features images and help build image feature databases for the HiRISE team.

(Grade-specific Teacher Guides and Activity Books are available online in .pdf format.)
See also links to other online resources for research purposes.

Introduction Webcast
March 21

Webcast icon

Archive of the webcast with transcript
Slides in .pdf format

  • Meet the team.
  • Learn how to become a pilot tester of HiWeb
  • Learn how to use "HiWeb" site to explore options and present your preference.
  • Ask questions of our experts to help you in your selection.

April 7, 2007

When you have formed an hypothesis and are ready to request and support your selection of that site, enter your information at the HiWeb site
(you should have received a password by email after you registered)


Month of April

With the options that best coordinate with the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter's course, images were taken of 9 sites. As images are available they open to all registered participants only.

It's not to late to register and participate in the fun of analyzing the returned student-suggested images. You can pick a HiRISE image to analyze, submit a brief report on it and help write image captions. Student images will are open only to those who register until the images have been officially released on the main HiRISE site....

May 30, 2007

Present your analysis of the images received:

  Experts will evaluate submissions

June 6

Webcast icon

Final results: Experts will evaluate your submissions.
Archive of the webcast with transcript
Slides in .pdf format

Watch as images continue to come in!

 FirstGov  NASA

NASA Official: Liza Coe
Last Updated: May 2005
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