archive: SETI [ASTRO] Planetary Society Supports Mars Surveyor Missions

SETI [ASTRO] Planetary Society Supports Mars Surveyor Missions

Larry Klaes ( )
Fri, 18 Dec 1998 10:46:44 -0500

>X-Authentication-Warning: majordom set sender
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>Date: Thu, 17 Dec 1998 19:10:02 GMT
>From: Ron Baalke <>
>Subject: [ASTRO] Planetary Society Supports Mars Surveyor Missions
>Reply-To: Ron Baalke <>
> Planetary Society Supports Mars Surveyor Missions
> The Mars Climate Orbiter was successfully launched
> last week and is now on its way to the Red Planet.
> It will reach Mars in nine and a half months and
> collect data on the planet's atmosphere and search
> for evidence of water. The vehicle will also
> operate as a radio relay station for a second
> mission, the Mars Polar Lander, as well as
> subsequent missions through 2004.
> The Mars Polar Lander is slated for launch on
> January 3, 1999. The Planetary Society supports a
> vigorous Mars exploration program and has funded
> an instrument -- the Mars Microphone -- which will
> fly aboard the upcoming Mars Polar Lander mission
> and record sounds from the surface of another
> planet for the first time.
> First Landing on Mars' Frozen South Pole
> The Mars Polar Lander is the third mission in
> NASA's Mars Surveyor Program, a decade-long effort
> to study the planet's geological and
> climatological history. The lander will be the
> first probe to explore the planet's polar region
> area (the South pole) which may contain evidence
> of the planet's climate history preserved in the
> permanently frozen terrain.
> The Mars Polar Lander will touch down near the
> edge of the south polar cap to collect weather
> data over a three-month period, to learn about
> seasonal changes by digging trenches with a
> robotic arm, and to search for frozen water
> beneath the surface. The mission will provide
> important clues to understanding the planet's
> climate history and potential to harbor life.
> In December of 1999 (late Spring on Mars), the
> lander will reach the Red Planet and directly
> enter the atmosphere, deploy a parachute, then
> fire rockets and soft land on the surface.
> The precise site will not be finalized until next
> June, after data has been analyzed from the Mars
> Global Surveyor, which now is imaging the planet
> and will soon begin its mapping mission. That
> orbiter has a high resolution camera that can
> distinguish objects as small as two to three
> meters, enabling the mission team to select an
> interesting and relatively safe landing site.
> Robotic Arm Tops List of Instruments
> Evidence suggests that Mars, three billion years
> ago, was warmer with a thick atmosphere and
> flowing surface water. Today, the planet is dry
> and cold with a thin atmosphere. Scientists are
> seeking to find out what happened to the water,
> which is critical to the question of life. Water
> may still be present below the surface.
> On Earth, microbes, called extremophiles, live
> miles below the ground. Scientists speculate that
> similar life may have existed - or continues to
> exits - in the subsurface of Mars.
> The Mars Polar Lander is equipped with a powerful,
> six-foot, robotic arm to dig trenches and deposit
> soil samples in miniature ovens that are designed
> to detect water and analyze gases. A tiny camera
> on the robotic arm will be used to take close-up
> pictures of the trenched areas so scientists can
> view the layering (if any) in the soil to learn
> about the planet's geological and climatological
> history.
> The camera will also take close-up images of
> surface features. On the elbow of the robotic arm
> is a sensor to record temperatures. The suite of
> lander instruments include:
> * Mars Descent Imager - From about five miles
> above the surface, after the spacecraft
> deploys its parachute, a wide-angle camera
> will generate images to provide a geological
> overview of the landing site;
> * Thermo and Evolved Gas Analyzer - Eight soil
> samples will be heated in small containers
> and the gases that are discharged will be
> analyzed by sensors to detect water, oxygen,
> and carbon dioxide;
> * Light Detection and Ranging Instrument
> (LIDAR) - The Russian Space Research
> Institute instrument will measure the
> altitude of the clouds and haze in the lower
> atmosphere. It is the first Russian
> instrument to fly on a U.S. spacecraft;
> * Stereo Surface Imager - The camera, built by
> the University of Arizona, will provide a
> stereoscopic, 360 panorama of the Martian
> surface. The camera was used on the1997 Mars
> Pathfinder mission;
> * Weather Station - Assorted meteorological
> instruments, built by JPL, will record the
> temperature, wind speed and direction,
> humidity, and atmospheric pressure;
> * Microphone - A microphone, funded by The
> Planetary Society, will provide the first
> sound ever from the surface of another world.
> Mars has a slight atmosphere (0.1 percent of
> Earth's at sea level) that is nevertheless
> capable of transmitting sound waves. We hope
> to hear the wind and even electrical
> discharges associated with sandstorms.
> And finally, over 932,000 names were collected
> earlier this year and will be carried on the Mars
> Polar Lander.
> New Millenium Experiments
> As the Mars Polar Lander approaches the upper
> atmosphere, two small probes (4.5 pounds each)
> will detach, fall through the thin air, and
> penetrate the ground, burrowing six feet into the
> soil.
> The microprobes have sensors to detect water ice
> and will measure soil temperatures and monitor
> weather conditions for two days. The probes are
> part of NASA's New Millennium Program, which
> develops and validates advanced technologies for
> future space missions.
> Visit the Mars Surveyor 98 website at: