Archive for the ‘mars global surveyor’ tag
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.
The Mars Global Surveyor was the first successful Mars mission in 2 decades. When it launched on November 7, 1996 it created an intense moment for NASA and the American people since 3 prior missions, USSR’s Phobos 1 and Phobos 2 and the US’s Mars Observer, were failures. Many were excited when the Mars Global Surveyor arrived in Mars on September 12, 1997 but the intensity was still there, for 1 and a half years the Mars Global Surveyor would loop around Mars until it achieves a circular orbit and begin its mapping process. The mission could still fail anytime during the process, only when the MGS is fixed on a circular orbit can the scientists and the people rejoice and start celebrating success.
Thankfully, on March 1999, the Mars Global Surveyor achieved a circular orbit and began the mapping process. It observed everything through its Mars Orbital Camera. The atmosphere, weather changes, surface and even the interiors of Mars. It captured images everyday in order to build a daily global map. The maps were then used by scientists to observe meteorological conditions in Mars as well as understand the changing weather patterns on the red planet.
The Mars Global Surveyor mission was to last 2 years but the orbiter didn’t stop communicating until November 2, 2006. After 9 years and 52 days the Mars Global Surveyor finally succumbed to battery failure and got lost in orbit. The MGS is by far the longest ever mission to Mars, long enough to last 3 mission extensions.
- Monitor the Martian atmosphere and volatile systems on a long term basis to understand their variability and cycle.
- Characterize the Martian surface and improved knowledge of its internal structure.
- Map out future landing sites for Mars landers, provide communications relay and aerobraking activities.
- Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC) – Used to produce wide-angle and narrow images images of Mars. Just like a weather image of Earth. The camera produced 250,000 images of Mars during its mission. These images were used to understand the Martian weather patterns and help choose future landing sites for rovers.
- Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter (MOLA) – This instrument measures the height and depth of Martian mountains and valleys. The MOLA provided an accurate topography of the Martian surface which helped scientists identify previous pathways of water as well as the location, volume and sizes of water sheds.
- Thermal Emission Spectrometer (TES) – This instrument studied the Martian atmosphere and identified the composition of the Martian surface. It discovered the accumulation of the mineral Hematite, which can only form in standing bodies of water. The findings of the TES directed the Mars Exploration Rovers to the Meridiani Planum and Gusev Crater.
- Magnetometer – Studies the Martian magnetic field in order to help scientists understand the interior of the red planet. They found out that Martian magnetic field varies on different areas of the planet which suggests that magma cooled very quickly as it came up through the crust.
- Radio Science – Used to map variations in the gravity field and determine atmospheric pressures at specific location.
Upon arriving in Mars the orbiter used an aerobraking technique in order to achieve a circular orbit. This process, which uses the Martian atmosphere to slow the orbiter down, lasted for 1 and a half years. Upon achieving low altitude and near polar orbit, the Mars Global Surveyor began its successful observation and mapping of Mars.