On Tuesday, the Surveyor spacecraft rotated to a position that pointed the Mars Orbiter Camera at a cluster of stars called the Pleiades. Over the course of an hour, the camera imaged stars within the cluster. These images were used by the camera team to determine the focus of the narrow-angle camera following the bakeout period that ended two weeks ago.
During that five-day bakeout period, a 53-Watt heater was used to remove residual moisture from the camera's graphite epoxy structure. This moisture affects the camera's focus. Preliminary results from this week's activity indicates that additional bakeout will not be necessary. Over the next two weeks, the camera will image the Pleiades on four separate opportunities to allow the camera team to make adjustments to the focus settings.
On Wednesday, the spacecraft was commanded to spin in the opposite direction for a period of three hours. Under normal conditions during the journey to Mars, Surveyor's high-gain antenna is pointed at the Earth, and the spacecraft slowly spins in the clockwise direction as seen from the Earth. During the three hours, the spacecraft spun in a counter- clockwise direction to allow the spacecraft team to calibrate the gyroscopes. These devices provide information to Surveyor's flight computers regarding the spacecraft's pointing orientation in space.
Today, the flight team transmitted the C5 sequence to Surveyor. C5 contains commands that will control the spacecraft for the next four weeks. The first activities in C5 will start on Monday, February 17th.
After a mission elapsed time of 99 days from launch, Surveyor is 24.30 million kilometers from the Earth, 98.95 million kilometers from Mars, and is moving in an orbit around the Sun with a velocity of 28.78 kilometers per second. This orbit will intercept Mars on September 12th, 1997. The spacecraft is currently executing the C4 command sequence, and all systems continue to be in excellent condition.
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Status report prepared by:
Office of the Flight Operations Manager
Mars Surveyor Operations Project
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
California Institute of Technology
Pasadena, CA 91109