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Last Updated: Friday, 20 May, 2005, 12:29 GMT 13:29 UK
Novel view of Martian spacecraft
Mars Odyssey as seen from Mars Global Surveyor

It is the first picture of a spacecraft orbiting an alien world, taken by another craft circling the same planet.

This image of Mars Odyssey was taken by its sister craft, Mars Global Surveyor, while they were both moving around the Red Planet at more than 11,000km per hour (6,800mph).

The US space agency (Nasa) probe also turned its camera on Mars Express, a European visitor to the planet.

Mars Express was about 250km (155 miles) away from Nasa's orbiter at the

time.

The probes have been surveying the Martian surface for the past few years during an unprecedented period of scientific activity at the fourth planet.

Traffic jam

Mars Global Surveyor arrived in 1997, followed by Mars Odyssey in 2001, and then the European Space Agency's Mars Express in December 2003.

Image: NASA/JPL/MSSS
Wide solar wings: Mars Express sweeps over the planet
All three are circling the Red Planet on slightly different orbits to prevent a collision.

The two Mars spacecraft take a circular orbit that passes over the poles while Mars Express takes a more elliptical route.

At times, the US craft pass as close as 15 km to each other.

The images were obtained by the Mars Global Surveyor operations team at Lockheed Martin Space Systems, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Malin Space Science Systems.


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