Mars Global Surveyor

Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) is a Mars orbiter. Launched from Cape Canaveral on November 7, 1996, 9 a.m. EST, it arrived at Mars after a 10-month interplanetary cruise and was successfully inserted into a Mars orbit on September 11, 1997, and used aerobraking for achieving the low Mars orbit required for the intended orbital investigations of the Red Planet. Its mission is to survey Mars from orbit, with instruments constructed for the lost Mars Observer. Moreover, it should serve as relay for the lander mission Mars Pathfinder, and was intended to supplement unlucky Mars 96.

By the end of March, 1998, Mars Global Surveyor had reduced its initial 45-hour orbit by aerobraking to an 11.6-hour orbit, passing about 106 miles (170 kilometers) above the surface at closest approach and about 11,100 miles (17,864 kilometers) at its farthest distance from the planet. At this point, the aerobraking manouvers were interrupted to start orbital science investigations.

First targets for investigations were selected for public interest: The landing sites of the Viking 1 and 2 spacecarft as well as the Mars Pathfinder, and the Cydonia features of public interest, notably an interesting feature called the Mars Face.


MGS Spacecraft

First MGS image of Mars

  • Compare this MGS image with HST photos (Mars Pathfinder landing site marked)

    Images from August 20, 1997: Chryse, Elysium, Syrtis Major parts of Mars seen

    Images from Mars orbit will be added here as soon as time permits.

    MGS has now taken a first hi-res image of the Mars Face and revealed that it is probably an interesting mountain or mesa; no signs for an artefact are obvious.

    More interesting images:

    After having obtained these interesting pictures, Mars Global Surveyor went into a month-long Solar Conjunction mode, as the orbital motions of Earth and Mars let the red planet vanish behind the sun in May 1998, so that communications became impossible. See MGS Status Report of May 1, 1998.

    MGS resumed its science mission later in 1998, and as of June, 2003, is still active in Mars orbit, busily acquiring pictures and data.

  • MGS delivers the first image of Earth and Moon (and Jupiter with satellites in one image) from Mars - Earth/Moon Image (JPL Photojournal) - Press Release (03-179) - featured as Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) May 26, 2003


    [MGS logo] More Mars Global Surveyor links:
    Hartmut Frommert [contact]

    [Mars] | [Spider] @ [SEDS]

    Last Modification: April 13, 1998