Proceedings PaperPhotographing The Planets From Orbiting Satellites
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Although several spacecraft, both U.S. and Russian, have already explored some planets during flyby, e.g. Mariner and Zond, the concept of investigating planets in a systematic fashion from orbiting satellites at relatively close range is unique in the history of imaging technology. Nevertheless, NASA already is preparing the groundwork for the regular probing of planetary surfaces and atmospheres, during the 1970's and beyond, tnrough use of remote sensing techniques. Ranking high among the sensors to be selected for these missions unquestionably will be photographic imagers. This is so for several reasons: 1) photographic data (images) are simplest of all to interpret and extract information from; 2) data packing density is extremely high; 3) photographic systems, electro-optical as well as photo-optical, are versatile, reliable, and well developed; and 4) photography has already proven its usefulness in Gemini, Mariner, Tiros, Lunar Orbiter, etc. This is not to imply that photography is not without limitations or draw-backs; the adverse effect of certain planetary atmospheres and poor illumination on image quality is well appreciated. Still, the ad-vantages outweigh the disadvantages. Accordingly, this paper will examine a number of parameters associated with the acquisition of photographic images from planet-orbiting space-craft. The purpose being to indi-cate what can be expected in the way of performance from such photographic systems and also to highlight where some of the problem areas lie.