Activities this past weekend focused on science calibrations. On Saturday morning, the flight team activated and verified the operational status of the payload data subsystem. This device is a control unit that collects data from the science instruments and packages the data for transmission to Earth. Verification activities included transmitting software to Surveyor to run the PDS, and testing all the data rates that the spacecraft utilizes to transmit science data to Earth. These data rates vary from 21,000 to 85,000 bits per second.
Afterwards, the flight team activated the Magnetometer, Mars Orbiter Camera, Thermal Emission Spectrometer, and Mars Relay Antenna for the first time during the mission. The science teams spent most of the weekend observing data from their respective instruments to verify the operational status.
Early Sunday morning, Surveyor turned to point the Thermal Emission Spectrometer at the Earth for an hour. Over the course of the hour, the instrument scanned the Earth to generate a thermal image of the planet for instrument calibration purposes. Initial results show that the spectrometer detected carbon dioxide, ozone, and water vapor in the Earth’s atmosphere in proper proportions. The principal investigator for the instrument, Dr. Phil Christensen, has announced that the calibration results were better than expected.
Late Sunday night, the flight team activated the Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter for several hours to verify its operational status. Unlike the other science instruments, the laser altimeter was shut off several hours after activation. The quick shutdown was performed as a conservative measure aimed at preserving the lifetime of the laser for use at Mars.
Over the course of the weekend, over 100 amateur radio enthusiasts assisted the flight team in the science calibration activities. These HAMs used their radios to monitor the UHF beacon transmitted by the Mars Relay Antenna and are in the process of reporting their results to the Mars Relay team. Eventually, the UHF beacon will be used at Mars in 1999 to signal future landers on the Martian surface to transmit their data to the orbiting Surveyor spacecraft. Surveyor will then transmit the lander data back to Earth.
Science calibration activities will continue until Tuesday, November 26th. Surveyor is currently 5.1 million kilometers from the Earth and moving away at a velocity of 3.06 kilometers per second.