Originally created 09/13/99

Mars Climate Orbiter snaps first picture



PASADENA, Calif. -- The first picture snapped by a camera aboard the Mars Climate Orbiter shows the red planet from 2.8 million miles away looking like a tiny, out-of-focus piece of elbow macaroni.

The image was shot Tuesday, NASA officials said. It was posted on the Internet site www.msss.com over the weekend.

The weather satellite is expected to reach Mars' orbit on Sept. 23, about nine months after its launch. Its mission is to map the planet's surface and send back detailed information about the planet's climate over the next two years.

It follows the Mars Global Surveyor, which has been mapping the planet's surface since March and is scheduled to end its mission in 2001.

Another probe is due to arrive in December to test the planet's soil and search for water.