High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment is a camera on board the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter which has been orbiting and studying Mars since 2006. The 65 kg (143 lb), US$40 million instrument was built under the direction of the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. It consists of a 0.5 m (19.7 in) aperture reflecting telescope, the largest so far of any deep space mission, which allows it to take pictures of Mars with resolutions of 0.3 m/pixel (about 1 foot), resolving objects below a meter across.
The HiRISE camera is designed to view surface features of Mars in greater detail than has previously been possible. It has provided a closer look at fresh martian craters, revealing alluvial fans, viscous flow features and ponded regions of pitted materials containing breccia clast. This allows for the study of the age of Martian features, looking for landing sites for future Mars landers, and in general, seeing the Martian surface in far greater detail than has previously been done from orbit. By doing so, it is allowing better studies of Martian channels and valleys, volcanic landforms, possible former lakes and oceans, sand dune fields such as Hagal and Nili Patera, and other surface landforms as they exist on the Martian surface.
The general public is allowed to request sites for the HiRISE camera to capture (see HiWish). For this reason, and due to the unprecedented access of pictures to the general public, shortly after they have been received and processed, the camera has been termed “The People’s Camera”. The pictures can be viewed online, downloaded, or with the free HiView software.