MY SPECULATIVE ANALYSIS OF THE SOVIET MARS 3 LANDER IMAGE
I cropped the ‘probable data’ portion from the original image.Click to view attachment
I wrote three C/C++ programs to reduce only image noise:
• Eliminate salt and pepper noise with a modified rank order filter
• Reduce Gaussian noise with a modified sigma filter
• Reduce other noise (speckle and non-Gaussian) via normalization Click to view attachment
The modifications I made to several well known filter algorithms (Lee’s sigma filter, the Frost MSE filter, and the rank order filters, -etc.) were done in such a way as to only adjust noisy pixels and to leave the rest of the image untouched. The programs characterized each pixel as either: ‘image’ or ‘highly probable noise’; the programs then assigned the noisy pixels new values depending on their noise type: rank order median for salt and pepper, sigma values or Gaussian, -etc. In the end, over 64% of the final pixels have retained their exact original values. I then wrote another C program to zoom out the image (3x) using the bi-cubic spline interpolation algorithm from the Harley & Weeks image processing handbook. My Top 4 Interpretations of the Resulting Image Click to view attachment
(1) Most Probable - (bright horizontal line at the bottom) - Looking down at the ground at something less then 45 degrees, but not under the ship. The dark area is disturbed soil; may be caused by a skidding/rolling type landing. We are looking out less then 2 meters (?). The bright line is a power up artifact of the camera and/or a reflection off one of the unfolded shiny metal shrouds on the lander. This composition is reminiscent of Surveyor, Viking, Venera, and other landers looking at or near their feet as one of their first images.
( no image - just flip the one above)
2) Possible - (flip the image to any of the two vertical orientations) Looking down again at the ground, possibly an out of focus scrape mark from the ship skidding/rolling or just the soil beneath the camera. We are looking down at less than 1 meter (?)Click to view attachment
(3) Most Wishful - (bright horizontal line at top) Looking out at the horizon with a dark ridge in the foreground – notice the ‘rocks’ in and on the dark foreground ridge... Notice the large rock near the top right near the bright horizon. Notice the rock near the bottom right at the trailing edge of the dark ridge. Notice the rock(s) on the dark ridge near the left edge of the image. Notice the dusty atmosphere near the horizon (at top). We are looking outward from meters to the local horizon (a hundred meters?)
(4) Consensus since the 1970’s - This whole ‘image’ is just noise and my programs and your programs and you and I are just hallucinating, i.e. a Soviet Rorschach test.
Some other points to consider:
- Soviet experts (early 1970s) agreed that this image was just noise.
- The camera’s longer axis should be the vertical axis of the image – making interpretation 1, 2, and 3, scenes from a craft lying on its side.
- The landing was during a regional/global dust storm
- The available lighting was supposedly 50lux (low lighting)
I interpret the uniformly bright area in the image as the point where the vidicon camera was turned on. It then AGC’ed within a few lines to a normal gain-level. I suggest this because the noise pixels in the original (un-cropped) image just above this bright area (for ~10 lines before the bright area and parallel to the bright line across the image) are uniformly brighter by a few percent - compared to the noise pixels in all the lines before it; This statistically significant observation suggests the this may be the actual turn-on time of the vidicon; then we see the vidicon ‘blooming’ (i.e. all signal, no contrast, the white area); and then the gain control takes over….and we have a noisy image for ~60 more lines before the transmission stops. Alternatively, since this ‘brighter’ noise is spatially correlated to the bright line, it just may be a photographic artifact of the stupid screen-shot that we have been forced to deal with for the last 30+ years. I would really love to get a hold of the original Soviet data!
Mars 3 landed but may have skidded or tipped over during the final approach. The usual suspects are rocks, rockets, chutes, winds, -etc. The damaged lander started its science sequence. The first image was in the process of beaming down to Earth. The orientation of the camera to the noisy image fragment suggests that the lander is not in the upright position. After 70 scan lines reach Earth, the signal is suddenly lost. What failed? Was it the transmitter, the electrical system, the final remnants of the propellant leaking from broken rocket nozzles onto panels and into the system electronics or maybe the battered lander just slouched and started rolling over again as a result of a precarious perch or the slumping soil and rock mechanics from the hard landing…
To the MRO Crew:
Please take some lucky MRO images of the Mars 3 landing site for Christmas!
Its easy…look in and near northern Ptolemy Crater , 45° S, 158° W; you should see a dusty old parachute and a nearby shiny Soviet lander lying on its side!
Parting Shot -- A False Color Image of the Wishful Horizon Interp:Click to view attachment