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Flight Status Report

Wednesday, 27 November 1996

Science calibration activities that began last weekend were completed this week. On Monday, Surveyor turned to point the Mars Orbiter Camera at the Earth. Over the course of one hour, the spacecraft oriented the camera in the proper position to allow three Earth-imaging opportunities. The principal investigator for the camera, Dr. Mike Malin, announced that the wide-angle lens of the camera successfully captured an Earth image approximately 12 pixels in diameter.

On Tuesday morning, Surveyor turned to point the camera at a star in deep space called Pleiades. By examining the sharpness of the image of the star, the Mars Orbiter Camera team will be able to send commands to the camera that will refine its focus.

Except for the Magnetometer, all instruments on Surveyor were powered off after the camera's focus-check experiment. The Magnetometer will be left on throughout most of cruise to allow for an extended calibration. This calibration is necessary because the Magnetometer is a sensitive instrument designed to detect extremely weak magnetic fields. The principal investigator for this instrument, Dr. Mario Acuna, is pleased with the initial calibration data. The preliminary results show that the Magnetometer on Surveyor generates much cleaner data than the Magnetometer flown on the Mars Observer mission.

Few activities will take place over the Thanksgiving holiday period as the flight team stands down after the first 20 days of an intensive, but extremely successful mission to this point. After the holiday period, the flight team will resume its analysis of the solar array position discrepancy.

Surveyor is now 5.6 million kilometers from the Earth and is moving away from Earth with a velocity of 3.03 kilometers per second. The spacecraft is currently in an orbit around the Sun that will intercept Mars in September 1997. Surveyor's orbital velocity around the Sun is 33.03 kilometers per second.