Few activities occurred this week as the Surveyor spacecraft continues on a path that will reach Mars later this summer. Yesterday, the flight team transmitted the C9 command sequence to the spacecraft. This sequence became active today at 7:00 a.m. PDT and contains commands that will control the spacecraft for the next six weeks. Some of the major tasks programmed into the C9 sequence include more calibration activities with the science instruments, and a reprogram of Surveyor's onboard software to allow the spacecraft to collect science data at slightly faster rates.
One of the first tasks automatically executed by the C9 sequence was the activation of the magnetometer. This science instrument is normally powered on during the cruise to Mars. However, the spacecraft's computer automatically shut off the magnetometer for power conservation purposes upon entry into safe mode last month. Reactivation of this instrument will allow the magnetometer team to resume their collection of solar wind data.
Late Friday afternoon, the Mars Orbiter Camera was activated with the anticipation of imaging Mars next week. This imaging opportunity is the first of several that will occur prior to Surveyor's arrival at Mars in September. Although Mars will appear at lower resolution in these long-range images as compared to those taken from orbit later this year, they will allow the camera team to gather important data toward the calibration of the instrument. Next week's opportunity will occur on July 2nd and is timed to place Mars Pathfinder's July 4th landing site in the center of a global image of the red planet.
After a mission elapsed time of 232 days from launch, Surveyor is 165.81 million kilometers from the Earth, 18.43 million kilometers from Mars, and is moving in an orbit around the Sun with a velocity of 22.08 kilometers per second. This orbit will intercept Mars 76 days from now, slightly after 6:00 p.m. PDT on September 11th (01:00 UTC, September 12th). All systems continue to be in excellent condition.
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