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Mars Express 3D Image Released

CmdrTaco posted more than 10 years ago | from the whole-lotta-mars-going-on dept.

Science 213

zoney_ie writes "As reported in BBC News Online, ESA (European Space Agency) have released an image of the surface of Mars, captured in 3D and full colour. Europe's Mars Express orbiter has been taking pictures of the Martian surface at down to 10m resolution. The mission will result in Mars being more carefully mapped than Earth has been to date! Full size image available on ESA's Mars Express Website."

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Truth about the sub crash in the mediterranean (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8022450)

Finally got to hear the story face to face. The sub was not submerged but had an Italian pilot on board. They hit the shoals/rocks at full speed and then gunned it to get through it and hit more shoals, nearly corkscrewing the sub. It was not submerged. Funny how bits and pieces over a telephone can get so totally screwed up. Still, the facts are as I believe them to be are: a)they had Italian locals on board b)the sub was going full speed c)It hit rocks/shoals and corkscrewed the entire sub d) the gunning of the engines full speed onto the second set of rocky shoals did more damage. e) damage was initially feared to be catastrophic and the crew scared significantly

It still paints a pretty ugly picture since the Italian was at the helm with the Boat and Squadron commander.

Mr. Brownfield found not guilty?! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8022478)

You mean Mr. Brownfield was not guilty of this debacle?

And I had fun with his social security number already!

Asshat?? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8022980)

hi, me an Brazil (LOLOL!11) =)!!

anways, i hear about "asshat"... we do not hav such a clothing in my countrye! what is it? were do i buy it???

i also here "CmdrTaco" a lot about "asshat"... is he expert?

Congrats ESA (5, Interesting)

QuantumFTL (197300) | more than 10 years ago | (#8022452)

As a NASA worker, I'd like to congradulate the ESA on their success with Mars Express.

Welcome to Mars!

Justin Wick
Science Activity Planner Developer
Mars Exploration Rovers

Apparently, (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8022550)

you don't have to know how to spell to work for NASA.

You're a subscriber? You've lost all credibility. (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8022657)

No wonder you lost that other lander. Sheesh.

Re:Congrats ESA (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8022718)

perhaps his penchant for crapinto$h is to blame.

Karma (3, Funny)

QuantumFTL (197300) | more than 10 years ago | (#8022754)

Wow... can't believe mods find my post +5 interesting... it's so easy to get modded up on slashdot when you're from NASA :)

Hmm... maybe NASA faked my karma... tinfoil hat people, maybe you can explain? :)

Justin Wick

Re:Congrats ESA (1)

GeekDork (194851) | more than 10 years ago | (#8022761)

As a NASA worker, I'd like to congradulate [...]

And now, we all know who slammed those drilling probes to neverland ;-)

So I thought until I found something [] .

Re:Congrats ESA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8022797)

>>As a NASA worker, I'd like to congradulate [...]
>And now, we all know who slammed those drilling probes to neverland ;-)

Dude, don't you have something better to do than nitpick some guy's spelling?

Oh wait this is slashdot... n/m, keep the spelling nazis and dupes coming...

Re:Congrats ESA (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8022845)

now if you could just send us a video of your impression of Darth Maul's light saber technique, we could really finish this thread off right.

Man commits disturbing acts against his goats! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8022860)

A criminal complaint said two employees on Considine's farm told authorities they'd seen Considine commit "disturbing acts" [] against his goats.

I can hear faint echoes of my mother..... (5, Funny)

loserbert (697119) | more than 10 years ago | (#8022460)

The mission will result in Mars being more carefully mapped than Earth has been to date!

"You never finish anything! Why don't you go and finish the Earth before you go running off to map some other silly planet?"

Re:I can hear faint echoes of my mother..... (2, Funny)

Dr. Shim (576902) | more than 10 years ago | (#8022560)

So we can install more nuclear facilities? I mean, why try and spend half a trillion on putting them in the ocean when you can spend three trillion putting them on Mars!

Re:I can hear faint echoes of my mother..... (5, Funny)

L. VeGas (580015) | more than 10 years ago | (#8022606)

"You never finish anything! Why don't you go and finish the Earth before you go running off to map some other silly planet?"

It's because I am from Mars. Women are from Venus.

Re:I can hear faint echoes of my mother..... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8022822)

Yes, Mom/Dad, but...

Mars is easier, because all of it is exposed to optical view from orbit, whereas ~70% of the Earth is under water.

Riiiiiiiight (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8022463)

The mission will result in Mars being more carefully mapped than Earth has been to date!
Uhh.. I'm sure you're not including military mapping. Military topographical maps are quite accurate. Of course once Mars has strategic military importance (or oil) these maps will be available only to King George and his friends.

Re:Riiiiiiiight (2, Informative)

finchman (166628) | more than 10 years ago | (#8022541)

Seabed maps are not nearly as acurate as land maps.

Re:Riiiiiiiight (2, Interesting)

M-G (44998) | more than 10 years ago | (#8022663)

Even excluding military mapping, there is pretty good coverage of earth. And the article says it's 12m resolution, while the submitter is claiming 10m.

Re:Riiiiiiiight (2, Informative)

zoney_ie (740061) | more than 10 years ago | (#8022939)

My apologies, the image available was taken at 12m resolution according to the article.

The details on the High-res Stereoscopic Camera HRSC on ESA's website had the 10m number:

"The HRSC will image the entire planet in full colour, 3D and with a resolution of about 10 metres. Selected areas will be imaged at 2-metre resolution. One of the camera's greatest strengths will be the unprecedented pointing accuracy achieved by combining images at the two different resolutions. Another will be the 3D imaging which will reveal the topography of Mars in full colour."

Re:Riiiiiiiight (1)

gantrep (627089) | more than 10 years ago | (#8022871)

You think we're going to find fossil fuels there?

Re:Riiiiiiiight (1)

tengwar (600847) | more than 10 years ago | (#8022957)

On the contrary - the main source of map data in the UK (also Ireland, and I believe India) is the Ordnance Survey [] , founded in the year dot to prepare for an expected Napoleonic invasion.


Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8022464)


Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8022489)

What a coincidence, Allah wants us to wipe out the infidels!


Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8022593)

Both Jesus and Allah want you to wipe your ass, please (and would it hurt to shower?).


Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8022744)

not if it's a golden shower.


Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8022945)

No. That would be the europeans.

hi (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8022468)


Re:hi (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8022528)

hi there! welcome to hell.

mini ipod! (-1, Offtopic)

Schreckgestalt (692027) | more than 10 years ago | (#8022469)

The mission will result in Mars being more carefully mapped than Earth has been to date!

maybe they will find my new mini ipod!

New game for Europeans: (3, Funny)

Krapangor (533950) | more than 10 years ago | (#8022472)

Spot the beagle !

Re:New game for Europeans: (1)

Bill, Shooter of Bul (629286) | more than 10 years ago | (#8022523)

But its resolution is only 10 m. I'm pretty sure that the beagle was smaller than that.

Re:New game for Europeans: (3, Insightful)

RetroGeek (206522) | more than 10 years ago | (#8022645)

I'm pretty sure that the beagle was smaller than that

But not the crater! Depending on the terminal velocity it could be larger than 30 feet (imperial conversion done for the metrically challenged).

Re:New game for Europeans: (5, Funny)

corrie (111769) | more than 10 years ago | (#8022625)

Can't see a beagle, but I saw at least five new faces in the hi-res version []

Re:New game for Europeans: (2, Interesting)

wik (10258) | more than 10 years ago | (#8022644)

They can do that, while the USA tries to play whack-a-beagle [] .

Re:New game for Europeans: With Gerhard Neukum? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8022710)

Picture taken by the High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) on board ESA's Mars Express orbiter on 14 January 2004 under the responsibility of the Principal Investigator Prof. Gerhard Neukum

Hmmmm! It's time to kick A** and chew bubble gum!

You insensitive clod! (1)

gantrep (627089) | more than 10 years ago | (#8022895)

I'm all out of bubble gum!

Original source (1)

TimboJones (192691) | more than 10 years ago | (#8022999)

Original source of the kick ass & chew bubble gum line: They Live! []

Re:New game for Europeans: (1)

corrie (111769) | more than 10 years ago | (#8022965)

Actually, we now know what happened to the Beagle [] .

Certainly the earth has been better mapped (3, Insightful)

HMA2000 (728266) | more than 10 years ago | (#8022473)

I am pretty sure that many top secret government organizations have mapped the earth at a better resolution than 10 meters.

Or did you think the US bombed the chinense embassy on accident?

Yes, but (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8022491)

Are any of those publicly availible (declassified)?

Re:Certainly the earth has been better mapped (3, Interesting)

Rhubarb Crumble (581156) | more than 10 years ago | (#8022492)

I am pretty sure that many top secret government organizations have mapped the earth at a better resolution than 10 meters.

Maybe, but there's no construction activity on mars, precious little erosion (wind only, no water) and (I think?) no continental drift. Any map of earth gets out of date pretty quickly.

(OT: moderation weirdness, testing) (-1, Offtopic)

Rhubarb Crumble (581156) | more than 10 years ago | (#8022709)

Starting Score: 1 point
Moderation -1
100% Overrated
Total Score: 0

Oooh look, somebody likes me. Editor at work? I wonder what this post will come out as?

Re:Certainly the earth has been better mapped (0, Offtopic)

big-giant-head (148077) | more than 10 years ago | (#8022563)

You forgot we also bombed the Fench embassey by "accident" as well.

Re:Certainly the earth has been better mapped (1)

Izmunuti (461052) | more than 10 years ago | (#8022844)

Well, the thing about the Earth being 70% covered in water compared to nearly 0% (how big are Mars' ice caps?) on Mars, probably explains the difference. I doubt we have our ocean bottoms completely mapped to 10m resolution.


Re:Certainly the earth has been better mapped (2, Interesting)

rrhal (88665) | more than 10 years ago | (#8022935)

I used to work here. Most of Alaska and surrounding environs is available at 10m:


Re:Certainly the earth has been better mapped (3, Interesting)

zoney_ie (740061) | more than 10 years ago | (#8023014)

I was under the impression it was the combination of the amount (they hope to scan approx. 2/3s of Mars) and the resolution (which although 12m for this image, the ESA website mentions 10m, with a smaller amount taken at 2m resolution).

Also the camera is only one instrument. Mineral composition will be mapped, as will the atmosphere with an array of equipment - spectrometers, atom analyser, radio, radar...

It's a pretty nifty piece of kit.

Check out: ess/SE MUC75V9ED_0.html
for details on the instruments.

What colour is Mars? (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8022476)

I know its color is red.

Re:What colour is Mars? (1)

Dr. Shim (576902) | more than 10 years ago | (#8022503)

#710000? *snort*

Spitit (4, Interesting)

icebones (707368) | more than 10 years ago | (#8022480)

so, do they have any pictures of the Spirit rover, in those 3d pics?

Resolution is circa 10m so maybe... (2, Interesting)

reality-bytes (119275) | more than 10 years ago | (#8022706)

The resolution of Mars Express camera is circa 10m so it could be possible to spot Spirit if the pass is at the right time of day (Martian Dawn/Dusk and it can cast a 10+m shadow)

There could also be a possibilty of spotting Spirit or Beagles chutes if they have played out flat on the surface (and not been blown miles away by now)

I'm pretty sure this isn't a huge mission priority right at the moment because i'd imagine it taking a lot of analysis to find them in the pixels.

Re:Spirit (4, Informative)

meiocyte (455845) | more than 10 years ago | (#8022782)

At 10m resolution, one or two pixels in the images will have some light from Spirit, yes. =)

But I think the joining forces around Mars [] link from the main page is very cool.

From the article:

Agustin Chicarro, ESA's Project Scientist for Mars Express, said: "This is the first time that two space agencies are co-operating on another planet with two spacecraft. It is remarkable to know that one is in orbit and one is on the surface, both taking measurements to complement each other."

Preemptive strike on the trolls (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8022485)

I, for one, welcome our new Martian overlords.

In Soviet Russia, the image captures you.

yay (0)

wviperw (706068) | more than 10 years ago | (#8022508)

"The mission will result in Mars being more carefully mapped than Earth has been to date!"

There's nothing more comforting than knowing that we will soon know more about a planet a bajillion miles away that we've been on for a few days, than our own planet which we've been on for a couple few... errmm... years.

Terrific wallpaper image! (4, Funny)

belmolis (702863) | more than 10 years ago | (#8022510)

In addition to the scientific value, that image makes terrific wallpaper, and it is scaled perfectly for my monitor.

Fullsize image (4, Informative)

SiGiN (679749) | more than 10 years ago | (#8022522)

Here []

Fake! (1)

IcEMaN252 (579647) | more than 10 years ago | (#8022839)

Look at it, it looks like a poor render, it must be a fake!

(I joke...)

I was hoping for... (1)

RevMike (632002) | more than 10 years ago | (#8022983) man!

The Negro Issue (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8022555)

Gentlemen, I come to you with a pressing issue which I'm certain many of us have had to come to grips with before: the care, feeding, and discipline of one's negroes. I have encountered the following problems with disquieting frequency of late and would entreat your earnest replies.

1) My negroes have been running away. I always catch them (negroes not being particularly bright), but it is quite a nuisance to hunt them down. Mayhaps I should cut off their feet or tie them with leg-irons?

2) My negroes have been raping the white women. Anytime one comes within reach of their rapacious and beast-like clutches, a fair white woman is invariably raped by one of my negroes. I realize that as they possess an animal instinct that is undeveloped for higher reasoning and morality, this may be an unavoidable disadvantage to owning negroes, but perhaps there is a solution? Salt-peter in their diet, or cutting off the penis (and only reserving a few select male negroes for breeding stock)?

Gaming? (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8022581)

Are these images copyrighted, or are they put straight into the public domain? It sure would be cool to play a realtime strategy game (Dune 2005? heh.) right on the surface of Mars!

Re:Gaming? (3, Funny)

donnyspi (701349) | more than 10 years ago | (#8022773)

Move over, Scorched Earth, time for Scorched Mars!

Re:Gaming? (1)

revscat (35618) | more than 10 years ago | (#8022896)

I don't know about the ESA, but all images that NASA publishes are public domain. I would be surprised if the ESA were any different.

Damn those images look unreal (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8022602)

They need to get this thing over that so-called face. This clearly has the resolution to reveal the truth that it's probably a butt.

Re:Damn those images look unreal (1)

zeux (129034) | more than 10 years ago | (#8022944)

Somebody else did it already.

You can see here [] that it's just a hill with weird shadows.

Nothing else, but hey did you really believe it was a martian building ?

So, any chance they'll release a complete map... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8022616)

a la NASA's "Blue Marble" images for Earth?

That's one thing NASA has over ESA - they release a lot more material into the public domain... and this time I'm actually paying for it with my tax Euros, so I say they should release the images to us all :)

Re:So, any chance they'll release a complete map.. (1)

zeux (129034) | more than 10 years ago | (#8022857)

Well it's maybe because they DO have a lot more material to release...

ESA probes/satellites are quite rare these days but it's good to see they seem to release the data because many scientists will use it.

Earth to date? (4, Informative)

Bigby (659157) | more than 10 years ago | (#8022617)

Earth is mapped, near real time, to about 1 foot with military satellites.

Re:Earth to date? (3, Insightful)

zeux (129034) | more than 10 years ago | (#8022877)

There's no need to map earth at 1 foot resolution near real time. It's just so much data that you wouldn't have the time to analyse it until it gets outdated (continental drift, erosion, etc).

Instead they do have 1 foot resolution but they use it only on certains parts of the world and only when they need it, Iraq for instance.

Re:Earth to date? (1)

AndrewHowe (60826) | more than 10 years ago | (#8023059)

I make it just over 2^56 bits at 16 bits per square foot. I pity the foo' who has to update that in near real time.

More carefully mapped? (5, Interesting)

3dr (169908) | more than 10 years ago | (#8022621)

Well, let's think about this.

Considering we have publicly accessible aerial imagery down to 1m resolution (and you know the US military has sub-meter capability for their purposes) in selected areas, and 2m and 10m over the rest of the world, I'd say there is far more detail on Earth than Mars.

Further, the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission/SRTM mapped some 85% of the Earth's surface. Much of the data that mission generated is actually redundant, with some areas being scanned 3 times. This makes that data even more reliable, although it's fairly coarse at only 1arcsec resolution.

And IIRC, the Russian EGNOS (?) data covers Europe-to-Asia with decent resolution.

Anyway, I'm not busting the submitter's chops for this comment. I think the Mars mapping is fantastic, and I wish those of us interested in amateur digital cartography (now *there's* a party conversation topic) had equally easy access to Mars data.

Video games should make more use of all the terrain data governments generate.

Re:More carefully mapped? (1)

clv101 (547243) | more than 10 years ago | (#8022808)

Yeah but 2/3 of Earth is covered by water! Sure we have the land mapped to better than 1m resolution but that's only 1/3 of the story. Once Mars Express is done most of Mars will be mapped to 12m. How well do you think the Pacific bed is mapped?

Re:More carefully mapped? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8022909)

"Considering we have publicly accessible aerial imagery down to 1m resolution (and you know the US military has sub-meter capability for their purposes) in selected areas, and 2m and 10m over the rest of the world, I'd say there is far more detail on Earth than Mars."

-~70% ocean.

And, Hubble was used... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8022949)

Remember when NASA first put Hubble in space the system was out of focus? NASA didn't get back up there to fix it for a while did they? The Hubble in fact had a dual mission. The first mission, a secret government plan was to take high resolution images of planet earth. The lens system was just out of focus for astronomy purposes, it was perfect for earth bound pics. You didn't think the Hubble would get government funding just to take pretty pictures of stars and galaxies did you? The government never does anything for free.

And don't forget... (4, Informative)

zeux (129034) | more than 10 years ago | (#8022626)

It's only ONE aspect of the Mars Express mission.

On the website [] we can read:

The Mars Express Orbiter will:
image the entire surface at high resolution (10 m/pixel) and selected areas at super resolution (2 m/pixel)
produce a map of the mineral composition of the surface at 100 m resolution
map the composition of the atmosphere and determine its global circulation
determine the structure of the sub-surface to a depth of a few kilometres
determine the effect of the atmosphere on the surface
determine the interaction of the atmosphere with the solar wind

Beagle2 failed but it was only 20% of the mission.

Re:And don't forget... (2, Funny)

Steve Franklin (142698) | more than 10 years ago | (#8022765)

"produce a map of the mineral composition of the surface at 100 m resolution"

Do you suppose we'll pretend to offer democracy to Mars as we steal their mineral resources? I haven't heard anything about Martian weapons of mass destruction yet, but that could change. It would be a heck of a sight easier to get the bill through congress if the administration would just fake an attack by a Martian gunboat. Maybe that's why all these craft keep "disappearing." Somewhere down the line we declare that they have all been destroyed by Martian terrorists.

Except... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8022914)

Europ != US

We won't go there to steal their minerals. We also won't kill them pretending we are trying to 'free' them.

Duke Neukum? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8022632)

"Picture taken by the High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) on board ESA's Mars Express orbiter on 14 January 2004 under the responsibility of the Principal Investigator Prof. Gerhard Neukum." Obviously, hes there 'just in case'.....

Wallpaper (-1, Redundant)

savagedome (742194) | more than 10 years ago | (#8022636)

I just right clicked and set it as the wallpaper. (Alright. I use WinXP at work). It makes an awesome wallpaper. And perfectly fits the entire desktop too. Pretty cool.

Re:Wallpaper (1)

toyotaboy (583027) | more than 10 years ago | (#8022836)

what 3-d? I don't see any quicktime VR plugin.. I don't see any realtime model with a java plugin.. What a rip off, it's just another picture of a red rock. My god, how long are they going to drag this thing out!

Interresting note (5, Funny)

Captain Rotundo (165816) | more than 10 years ago | (#8022650)

did anyone else notice the part in the ESA disclaimer about if the picture contained any recognizable individual.... wonder what they know about mars that we don't....

Will the full archive be available? (3, Insightful)

ZPO (465615) | more than 10 years ago | (#8022651)

If the full georegistered archive is made available I'll be pleased. Otherwise it will be just another data-source for ESA to make money off of.

Given all the taxes paid citizens of the ESA member nations it had sure better be made publicly available.

Re:Will the full archive be available? (1)

pcraven (191172) | more than 10 years ago | (#8022919)

Well, the idea of government it not to compete with private enterprise.

Back when I worked for USGS, our goal was to maintain the data, not distribute it free of charge. (We weren't given enough money to do a great job of keeping it up to date anyway.)

Private companies usually rendered the pretty maps, distributed the datasets, etc. You paid for the service and ease of use those companies gave you.

Anyone else see blue? (1)

192939495969798999 (58312) | more than 10 years ago | (#8022654)

I am looking at the image, and I see what appear to be faint blue traces in the valley regions. Does this look like ice to anyone else? I am not sure what I am seeing, but it is definitely not just red sand and red rocks down there.

Re:Anyone else see blue? (1)

gsdali (707124) | more than 10 years ago | (#8022764)

The blue could be anything, minerals, the way the digital camera picks up shadow, but it is interesting that it is in the shady areas, worth a closer look though.

Re:Anyone else see blue? (1)

BlewScreen (159261) | more than 10 years ago | (#8022964)

Would water/ice be blue w/out a blue sky? I only paid attention in physics when fire was involved, so I have no idea, but does anyone else know?


Fake looking? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8022667)

Not meaning to say that the pic is fake, but why does it look like somebody made the thing in Painter?

cgi (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8022677)

Hmm, looks like they got an elevation model like a DEM from radar, applied some analytical hill shading and colouring and put that out.

If the top part really is a photograph then the bottom bit has used it as a texture map.

Pretty, though :)

The Dollar is dying (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8022697)

"No war for oil" was one of the more common slogans of the anti-war movement in the months before the Bush administration launched its war on Iraq on March 20, 2003. Oil is a many-faceted thing, however, and one aspect of it - the oil pricing policy of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) - has not had much exposure to the light of public discussion, though it can be found in the interstices of cyberspace, if one looks hard enough.

Military dominance is not enough to establish imperialist control and economic dominance. A monetary and financial system that goes with military control is necessary for that. In fact, the degree and geographic extent of the acceptance of the money of an imperialist state are a good indication of how far its writ extends. Not too many people outside the Soviet Union particularly wanted to hold rubles, so the economic power of the Soviet Union was weak even over Eastern Europe, which it controlled militarily and politically. That was one of the central differences between the Soviet Union and the United States at the end of World War II.

Despite all appearances, and despite the overwhelming military might of the United States, the position of the U.S. dollar in the world is precarious. Trying to preserve the monetary basis of unchallenged U.S. imperialism may have been one of the central reasons for the United States to want to conquer Iraq and to dominate its oilfields. To understand the basis for that statement, a brief history of the evolution post-World War II monetary order is essential.

In 1945, all major powers, victors and vanquished alike, except the United States, were in various states of destruction and debt. They were exhausted by war and in need of external assistance to rebuild. Britain and France were also under pressure from independence movements in the colonies. Only the United States came out of the war richer and stronger. It possessed a monopoly of nuclear weapons. It was the world's largest creditor and had half the world's economic output. It exported both oil and capital. It had three-quarters of all the central bank gold in the world.

Looking to the post-war world, the major capitalist powers among the Allies agreed, during a 1944 conference at Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, to a U.S. plan to make the U.S. dollar the anchor of the world's post-war monetary system. The basis of this plan was that U.S. dollars would be, literally, as good as gold. The United States promised to exchange them at a fixed rate of $35 per ounce of gold. The promise was based on a large store of gold at Fort Knox, Kentucky, and the immense financial strength of the United States. In return, the United States got the right to print the global reserve money. The world was willing to hold dollars because they represented gold at a constant price and because they were issued by the world's wealthiest and most powerful country.

As Western Europe rose from the ashes of war, with U.S. capital and a copious supply of nearly free Middle Eastern oil (relative to final price) in the two decades after 1945, the currencies of European countries regained local stability. At about the same time, in 1964, the U.S. Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin resolution that led to a large-scale war in Vietnam. President Johnson's "guns and butter" policy during that war set off serious global inflation - because inflation in the U.S. currency also created inflation in global prices. This undermined confidence in the dollar and Europeans began to turn in their dollars for gold at faster rates.

It soon became unsustainable. Between 1971 and early 1973 President Nixon completely de-linked the dollar from gold, abandoning the promise of convertibility made in 1944, and inaugurating the present era of floating currency exchange rates. Then came the October 1973 Arab-Israeli war, the Arab oil embargo, and the steep rise in oil prices. This coupled energy insecurities to financial ones.

Despite its de-linking from gold, the dollar continued to reign as the supreme global currency for a number of reasons, including the unequalled size of the U.S. economy and the lack of an alternative global currency. But the readiness of the world to hold dollars in increasing amounts also had another reason, which is a principal source of the U.S. monetary vulnerability in the Persian Gulf today. The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), whose leaders were Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela, decided to maintain its policy of pricing oil in U.S. dollars. That, in effect, made the oil under the sands of the Persian Gulf countries, which have two-thirds of the world's proven oil reserves, the new Fort Knox of the dollar.

So long as there was no currency to challenge it, and the oil-dollar link was maintained, most global trade would be in dollars. Countries and corporations would tend to hold most of their foreign currency reserves in dollars. Simply put, the United States could incur debt in its own currency, dollars, and import goods. For most other countries, matters were far more complex. For instance, Brazilian holders of their own currency, reals, or Indian holders of rupees had no effective purchasing power in the Persian Gulf, if their countries did not export something and earn U.S. dollars, or, alternatively, borrow them.

The Shah of Iran was the United States' chosen guardian of this new Fort Knox; he proved to be a shaky one. With no possibility of countering the Shah's repression of dissent but in the mosques, the Iranian people angrily overthrew the Shah in 1979, in an Islamic revolution directed as much against the United States as against him. Oil prices soared to $40 a barrel. Gold rose in parallel to more than $800 per troy ounce. The dollar sank to post-war lows against West European currencies. Only draconian increases in interest rates imposed by Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker, President Carter's emergency appointee to that post, saved the dollar.

The price was high. Unemployment and inflation rose in the United States, sending the sum of the two - picturesquely dubbed as the "misery index" by then-presidential candidate Ronald Reagan - to post-war highs. Abroad, interest payments on many foreign debts increased in step with U.S. interest rates, precipitating a debt crisis across the developing world, starting with Mexico in 1982, which could have caused the collapse of major U.S. banks. Excessive borrowing, partly caused by global inflation, was another contributory factor.

A full-blown debt crisis began in 1982, with a near-default by Mexico, an oil exporter. Only a wave of restructurings dictated by the International Monetary Fund, in close coordination with the U.S. Treasury Department saved the exposed multinational banks. But mechanical application of IMF "prescriptions" has left the working people of many debt-ridden nations much worse off - with high unemployment, lower real wages, and tattered social safety nets. Third World debt has increased almost five fold (in current dollars) since 1982.

The problems of the dollar were obscured by a number of factors in the 1980s and 1990s. Falling oil prices, the collapse of the Soviet Union, the apparent establishment of unchallenged U.S. military supremacy, the willingness of foreigners to invest large sums of money in the United States, the unfolding of the Oslo peace process in Israel/Palestine and spectacular increases in stock prices in the 1990s put the United States on top of the world. But the vulnerabilities were accumulating nonetheless. They are now acute, and, in many ways, the situation is more precarious than in 1979:

1. Economic power is much more diffuse than at the end of World War II. The U.S. share of global product is about 25 percent, half the share it had in 1945.

2. The United States imports about 60 percent of its oil requirements, up from 30 to 40 percent during the 1970s.

3. The U.S. current account deficit (i.e., on trade in goods and services, which I abbreviate here as simply trade deficit) is now immense - well over $400 billion in 2002. It is running at an annual rate of about $500 billion in 2003. In the 1970s, the United States ran both deficits and surpluses, both generally less than about $20 billion per year. Consistent trade deficits for more than two decades have turned the United States from the largest creditor to the largest debtor country in the world. To gain some perspective on an annual trade deficit rate of $500 billion, this is about equal to the entire annual Gross Domestic Product of India at current exchange rates. In a falling stock market, foreigners are less inclined to finance the huge trade deficits that are part of the continuing U.S. economic binge. The prospects for large inflows of European money to finance the U.S. trade deficit are murky, at best. Foreign investment has been declining, and so has the U.S. dollar. U.S. foreign debt is growing fast.

4. The one long-term bright spot from the 1990s, U.S. budget surpluses that emerged late in that decade, has now disappeared in a sea of red ink. Gross U.S. federal debt is now over $6 trillion, or about 60 percent of GDP, compared to fewer than one trillion dollars and about 33 percent of GDP in 1980. The tax cuts that are in the works in 2003 will very likely compound this problem. A considerable amount of U.S. debt is held by foreigners.

5. Perhaps most important, the euro has now emerged as a credible alternative, and hence a possible competitor, to the dollar. Initial questions about its stability, when it was introduced as a unit of account in 1999 and quickly lost ground to the dollar, have dissipated. The euro rose in value by about 20 percent relative to the dollar in 2002. It was first issued as a currency that people could use in everyday transactions on January 1, 2002. The euro-zone is comparable in economic size to the United States. And while Germany and France, the largest economies in the euro-zone, have had low economic growth, both tend to run current account surpluses so that they do not need capital imports to sustain domestic consumption.

Petroleum resource issues must be seen in the context of this weaker relative U.S. economic position. U.S. physical control over Persian Gulf oil resources, which had been re-established somewhat after the 1991 Gulf War, began eroding significantly in the mid-1990s. The long-term presence of U.S. forces in Saudi Arabia, with the world's largest petroleum reserves, had been challenged violently by Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda. There were two attacks on U.S. forces stationed in Saudi Arabia in the mid-1990s. These occurred in the context of rising popular Saudi antagonism to their presence. The Saudi government refused to collaborate fully with the United States in the investigation of the attacks on U.S. soldiers in Saudi Arabia. Low oil prices created domestic political weakness for the Saudi government, which is widely viewed as corrupt. Yet, the U.S. military presence in Saudi Arabia is dependent on that unpopular government, which espouses Islamic fundamentalism.

The terrorist attacks on the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 raised the insecurity of the U.S. presence in Saudi Arabia to new levels. Saudi Arabia continued funding and supporting the Taliban, which was sheltering Osama bin Laden, who, like Saddam Hussein, was a U.S. ally in the 1980s. Also in the year 1998, the introduction of the euro became a certainty.

The U.S. seems to have decided on the ousting of Saddam Hussein in 1998, independent of the results of the disarmament of Iraq that the United Nations inspectors were achieving. By that time, the physical infrastructure of the Iraqi nuclear weapons program had been destroyed by inspections. But the Clinton administration's response was to say that Saddam Hussein was a dictator and that the United States should work with the Iraqi opposition to get rid of him. Iraq reduced its cooperation with inspectors in the latter half of 1998. The U.S. and Britain escalated their threats of war. Caught in the escalating crisis, the UN inspectors left Iraq in November 1998. The United States and Britain started bombing Iraq in December, claiming they needed no new Security Council authorization to do so.

Disarmament of Iraq was an implausible war aim. As of this writing (late April 2003), U.S. occupation forces had not found any nuclear, chemical or biological weapons. They are refusing to let United Nations inspectors back into Iraq. It is also clear that whatever disarmament of Iraq remained to be accomplished could likely have been accomplished peacefully, possibly with some assistance from a sufficient UN police contingent to protect the inspectors and assist them to get entry to places, in case they were denied.

Moreover, the 1991-1998 as well as the 2002-2003 inspections showed their efficacy at accomplishing disarmament. By contrast, the bombing of vast sections of Iraq since 1998 and four years without inspections created more questions and uncertainties about Iraqi stocks of weapons of mass destruction and no disarmament relating to them. The 2003 war on Iraq has raised the possibility that the war may have precipitated some Iraqi officials to move weapons of mass destruction to other countries. In sum the U.S. linking of war, regime change, and disarmament of Iraq is not persuasive, to say the least. Indeed, during the debate in the United Nations Security Council in 2003, it was demonstrated that a part of the alleged U.S.-British case for war was based on fabrications and misrepresentations.

Three other links of the U.S. regime change policy to other goals are more plausible. The U.S. determination to occupy Iraq may have three main goals related to the control of oil:

1. To control physically the country with the second largest oil reserves in the world - 112.5 billion barrels of proven reserves, and 220 billion barrels in all of probable and possible reserves - in view of the increasing opposition to the U.S. military presence in Saudi Arabia.
2. To establish a long-term military presence in the Persian Gulf region so as to control the principal external source of oil supplies for Western Europe and China (which became an oil importer in the 1990s). This would fit into the U.S. goal of preventing either of them from emerging as global rivals, first suggested in a Pentagon draft document under the first President Bush, when Dick Cheney was Secretary of Defense.

3. To ensure, by physical occupation of the second largest oil reserves in the world and by a military presence in the Persian Gulf region that could enable rapid occupation of Saudi oil fields, that the price of oil would remain denominated in dollars. In other words, one United States goal may be to become a central player in OPEC by controlling Iraq either directly or through a regime that is pliant on the question of oil pricing policy, whatever its other political attributes might be.
The possibility that oil prices might begin to be denominated in euros was demonstrated by Saddam Hussein in the fall of 2000. At that time, he demanded and got permission from the United Nations to be paid for oil in euros. But his grandstanding about the euro had no large practical economic effect because Iraq was not in a position to change OPEC oil pricing policy. But OPEC collectively, Iran, and Russia have all considered pricing oil in euros.

The U.S. occupation of Iraq may provide a temporary reprieve for the dollar because the United States can exercise pressure on OPEC for continued pricing of oil in dollars. That may enable the United States to continue printing money, running up trade deficits, and foreign debts to some extent.

The United States can also restore Iraq's oil export capacity, force a privatization of Iraqi oil production and reserves, and dictate the pace of Iraqi and Kuwaiti oil production. It could stimulate the U.S. economy by forcing oil prices downward in 2004, a time of elections in the United States. Yet, while that would provide vast profits to U.S. oil companies and may be a politically convenient short-term economic lever, the underlying economic problems will likely continue to fester as the United States gets more mired in debt and dependent on trade deficits and capital imports to maintain its level of domestic consumption.

Even with control of Iraqi oil, the dollar's future will depend to a considerable extent on decisions outside the arena of Persian Gulf oil. Flows of capital into the United States to finance the U.S. trade and a part of the budget deficits depend on confidence in the value of the dollar, which has been going down relative to the euro. Decisions by Russia, Iran, and Venezuela to denominate some or all of their oil in euros may also cause a dollar sell-off. These factors could precipitate a downward spiral in which more people and institutions dump dollars for euros, gold, or other assets causing further declines in the value of the dollar and more sales of dollars. It would likely take a sharp increase in interest rates or taxes (or both) in the United States to reverse such a trend. The economic slump that that would precipitate could well be more severe than the one in the early 1980s.

A continuation of U.S. policies to prevent the emergence of the euro as a global rival may also require continued exercise of military muscle through threats, wars, occupations, setting up of client regimes, and vast military expenditures. The consequences of such a course could be devastating for the world, including the United States. It is dependent on everyone obeying the dictates of the United States on most crucial issues ("either you're with us or you're against us"). But in a world bristling with nuclear materials and nuclear weapons, nuclear proliferation may be a more likely outcome than capitulation in at least some cases.

The naming of Iran as part of the "axis of evil" and the war on Iraq has likely strengthened the pro-nuclear-weapons lobby in Iran. A similar strengthening of the pro-nuclear lobby in India occurred when the United States sent a nuclear-armed aircraft carrier to the Bay of Bengal in a "tilt" toward Pakistan during the Pakistan-India-Bangladesh war in 1971. There are increasing indications that Japan is considering acquiring nuclear weapons more seriously. Given the overwhelming superiority of the United States in non-nuclear military strength and the present tendency to make war and ask questions later, other countries would be more likely to seek nuclear weapons.

Neither a lone triumphant imperial dollar nor a confrontation between the dollar and the euro for global monetary domination pose is desirable. Both pose serious dangers for the world. Global trade and investment can be carried on with monetary instruments that are much more equitable. For instance, the exchange rates of currencies can be set on the basis of their underlying value - that is, on the average productivity of their workers as reflected in their purchasing power for locally made goods and services. Such a system would be fairer to workers and put less pressure on migration for economic reasons.

Of course, the establishment of a direction for monetary equity that would encourage fair trade will take an immense struggle because the immense profits that multinational corporations derive from cheap labor and resources would be threatened. But it is also necessary to set forth the monetary arrangements that can accompany a more just world in the same manner as the specifics of fair trade or nuclear disarmament have been widely discussed.

A new global monetary conference, a second, at which governments and people can discuss how the monetary and financial affairs of the world can be more equitably organized, is now a necessity not only for economic justice but also for peace. The alternative is a dollar imposed on the world by the diplomacy of "shock and awe."

WTCrap? (0, Flamebait)

fetus (322414) | more than 10 years ago | (#8022723)

Is it me or does it look like a painting?

In perspective... (2, Insightful)

Gorimek (61128) | more than 10 years ago | (#8022725)

So in little longer than Spirit has moved about 4 steps, Express has mapped the entire planet? Not bad...

As for the "better than earth" maps, I think they include the 70% of our planet that is under water.

Re:In perspective... (4, Informative)

FrostedWheat (172733) | more than 10 years ago | (#8023056)

Express has mapped the entire planet?

Not the entire planet. It's a fairly narrow strip of the planet. The main mapping mission hasn't begun yet. For now they are just calibrating the science instruments. I guess this image is part of that test.

Looks great! They will be mapping more than just Mars aswell, Phobos will also be globally mapped for the first time ever.

BTW, anyone know why there hasn't been any new Spirt images in the last 3 or 4 days?

Not 10 m resolution... (1)

Cyclopedian (163375) | more than 10 years ago | (#8022745)

The article says the image provided is at 12 m resolution.

Not sure where the conversion went wrong.


Re:Not 10 m resolution... (1)

Tweakmeister (638831) | more than 10 years ago | (#8022827)

Further proof that NASA has its grips on Slashdot editors.

Keyhole? (2, Interesting)

Andorion (526481) | more than 10 years ago | (#8022810)

It would be cool if they mapped this high resolution surface in Keyhole [] .

It already has Mars, but it's very low resolution (and not very 3d.)


Release unhindered data?R (2, Troll)

x4A6D74 (614651) | more than 10 years ago | (#8022841)

Right, so that image they put up is nifty and shows that they have been able to extrapolate altitude from the stereo aspect of the cam.

But for those of us who like to do our own 3D modeling, when will they release the whole-planet texture and heightmaps (a la NASA's Blue Planet, as mentioned by another poster)? I want to be able to load that stuff up and then make my own animations of probes/ships/etc., complete with landing and interacting with the environment.

Besides, without that data, how can I start to plan how to terraform the planet? And how can I decide the optimum location for my evil lair?

map prices (2, Interesting)

xyr0 (678756) | more than 10 years ago | (#8022850)

will the images be publicly available for download? i remember that the esa and nasa mapped earth with a stereo antenna from the space shuttle and that the data costs a buck load of money to use.

So Let's See... (1)

HedRat (613308) | more than 10 years ago | (#8022853)

The rover woke up, stretched it's legs out, rolled off its landing pad, went ten feet then stopped for the day....sounds like just another day in the life of Star Jones.

Can't wait 'til they're done... (3, Interesting)

Verteiron (224042) | more than 10 years ago | (#8022950)

... so I can make a normalmap out of it, dump it into Celestia [] and watch it bring my computer to a screeching halt.

Talk about fun!

Fullsize ehh? (3, Funny)

Tagren (715283) | more than 10 years ago | (#8022986)

Hmm.. Mars = big. Rez 10m of mars... Fullsize pictures. "Calling ISP to ask for bandwidth"...
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