Part of a recent, renewed push for exploration of Mars and indeed of other planets in the Solar System, the Global Surveyor will make way for additional probes in the Mars Surveyor program to be launched every 26 months--each time the alignments of Mars and Earth make a launch and voyage to the Red Planet possible--for at least the next decade.
So what happens now? Before Pathfinder, it had been twenty years since our last journey to Mars. NASA is planning a virtual fleet of spacecraft, all about to bombard the surface of Mars within the next few years. In 1996 Mars Global Surveyor was launched to study Mars's topography and gravity, its weather and climate, the composition of its surface and atmosphere, and the existence and evolution of any Martian magnetic field.
Photo. An artist's rendering of the Global Surveyor. Courtesy of NASA, JPL.
The spacecraft arrives in September 1997. It will stay in orbit for two Earth years and perform six primary investigations. The Mars orbital camera will take high resolution pictures of the surface and lower resolution pictures over time. The thermal emission spectrometer will measure the infrared energy emitted by a target. With this information, scientists can study the composition of rock, soil, ice, dust, and clouds.
The Mars orbital laser altimeter (MOLA) will piece together a topographical map of Mars by bouncing a laser to its surface and measuring the amount of time it takes for the laser to bounce back. A model of the Martian gravitational field will be constructed by radio scientists using the Doppler shift of radio signals sent back to Earth. A magnetometer will determine whether or not Mars has a magnetic field and will also tell the strength and orientation of the field.
Mission to Mars. An educational site created for the ThinkQuest contest.