The Mars Global Surveyor circled the red planet for 9 years and 52 days. Longer than any other Mars missions to date. The MGS produced a total of 250,000 images of Mars and contributed some of the most relevant discoveries that served as building blocks of current and future missions. This include:
- Before and after images of 2 gullies in Mars that shows new deposits. This is evidence the liquid water still flows on Mars from time to time.
- The Infrared spectrometer found traces of Hematite – A mineral that forms only in the presence of water. This discovery led NASA to look for hematite rich areas where the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity will land
- The Mars Orbiter Altimeter (MOLA) has produced a highly accurate topography of Mars. It mapped canyon, valleys, mountains and the polar caps. During its 9 year term the MGS witnessed new boulder tracks, varying amounts of carbon dioxide in the south polar caps, and newly formed craters.
- The Magnetometer found out that Mars does not have a global magnetic field, like Earth does, but a localized magnetic field that are concentrated on particular areas of the crust.
- On August 11, 2006 The Mars Global Surveyor captured an image of Mars’ moon Deimos to celebrate its discovery on August 11, 1877. The MGS also discovered that Phobos, the other moon of Mars, is covered by fine powdery material. Probably caused by Millions of years of meteoroid impacts.
- The Mars Global Surveyor was able to find 20 new crater formations that was not present on the pictures taken 6 years back. This helped scientists in their study of aging the Martian surface through the use of crater formations and densities.
- The surveyor found ridges that suggests persistent flow of water on the Martian surface during its ancient times.
- The Mars Global Surveyor discovered repeated weather patterns. Dust storms appear to repeat in the same location within a week or two of the time they were witnessed the previous year. Dust devils were also found to appear anytime in the beginning of spring until the Martian autumn.
The Mars Global Surveyor has greatly contributed to our quest to understanding our nearest neighbor. The red planet has characteristics that are comparable to Earth and these findings suggest that Mars could have had an atmosphere just like Earth before. Signs of life are everywhere and I could imagine Mars having the vegetation and life that we have here on Earth right now.
Understanding how Mars’ climate and surface became as it is today may also help us avoid the same fate for our dear planet Earth.