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Science Objectives
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Mars Global Surveyor achieved the following science objectives during its primary mission:
This image shows the wheel tracks left by NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Spirit, and even the rover itself, are visible in this image from the Mars Orbiter Camera on NASA's Mars Global Surveyor orbiter.
Rover Tracks Seen by MGS
Image credit: NASA/JPL
  1. Characterize the surface features and geological processes on Mars.

  2. Determine the composition, distribution and physical properties of surface minerals, rocks and ice.

  3. Determine the global topography, planet shape, and gravitational field.

  4. Establish the nature of the magnetic field and map the crustal remnant field. (A crustal remnant field is evidence of magnetism within the planet's crust or rocks, produced by the planet's own magnetic field at the time of formation.)

  5. Monitor global weather and the thermal structure of the atmosphere.

  6. Study interactions between Mars' surface and the atmosphere by monitoring surface features, polar caps that expand and recede, the polar energy balance, and dust and clouds as they migrate over a seasonal cycle.

Extended Mission Principal Goals

Mars Global Surveyor also achieved the following goals of its extended mission:

  1. Continued weather monitoring to form a continuous set of observations with NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, scheduled to reach the red planet in March 2006

  2. Imaging of possible landing sites for the 2007 Phoenix lander, and the 2009 Mars Science Laboratory rover.

  3. Observation and analysis of key sites of scientific interest, such as sedimentary-rock outcrop sites.

  4. Continued monitoring of changes on the surface due to wind and ice.

Science Instruments that will help meet these objectives

Mars Global Surveyor carried a complement of five scientific investigations, which were furnished by NASA centers as well as universities and industry:

MOC Instrument MOC (Mars Orbiter Camera)
This camera produced a daily wide-angle image of Mars similar to weather photographs of the Earth. In addition, the narrow-angle lens with image motion compensation captured images of objects as small as 0.5 meters (1.7 feet) across. One dramatic example from the spacecraft's Mars Orbiter Camera showed wheel tracks of NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Spirit and the rover itself. [More]
MOLA Instrument MOLA (Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter)
This experiment measured the height of Martian surface features like mountains and depths of valleys. [More]
TES Instrument TES (Thermal Emission Spectrometer)
This instrument studied the atmosphere and mapped the mineral composition of the surface by analyzing infrared radiation, scanning for heat emitted from the surface of Mars. [More]
This artist's rendition depicts the response of the solar wind to the obstacle - the planet Mars - in it's path. MAGNETOMETER (Electron Reflectometer)
The magnetometer studied the magnetic properties of Mars to gain insight into the interior of the planet. This instrument found small, localized magnetic fields and remnants of larger areas of ancient magnetic fields, providing clues to how Mars evolved as a planet. [More]
USO Instrument RADIO SCIENCE (Gravity Field Experiment)
The radio science investigation used data provided by the spacecraft's telecommunications system, high-gain antenna, and onboard ultra-stable oscillator, which is like an ultra precise clock, to map variations in the gravity field. These measurements enabled scientists to determine the atmospheric pressure at specific locations on Mars. [More]

Antenna to help current and future missions

In addition to the science instruments, the spacecraft carried an ultra-high frequency (UHF) antenna.

This antenna received data transmitted from rovers and landers on the surface of Mars and returned the data to Earth at a faster rate than the surface spacecraft. The antenna was not designed to take scientific measurements of its own. [More]
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