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Flight Status Report

Friday, 24 October 1997

After 43 days in orbit around the red planet, science data collection from Mars Global Surveyor's instruments is occurring on a continuous basis, and all systems are performing as expected. The temporary hiatus in aerobraking has yielded unique opportunities for the spacecraft to point its science instruments directly at the surface of Mars at the orbit's low point, instead of configuring to fly through the atmosphere. Some of the exciting data collected over the previous two weeks include laser topography measurements in the northern highlands near the massive volcano Olympus Mons, and color photographs of the gigantic canyon Valles Marineris.

Currently, the flight team is spending the majority of its time analyzing data that will explain why one of Surveyor's solar panels deflected past its fully latched position during an atmospheric pass two weeks ago. Data sources include information transmitted by Surveyor's internal health and engineering sensors, theoretical models and computer simulations, and tests of solar panel replicas in the laboratory.

All of this information will allow the joint NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Lockheed Martin Astronautics team to determine the safest method to resume aerobraking. In addition, members of the flight team are studying mission options to collect scientific data from a wide variety of final orbits. A decision regarding the direction in which to proceed is expected in the next few weeks.

After a mission elapsed time of 351 days from launch, Surveyor is 176.08 million miles (283.38 million kilometers) from the Earth and in an orbit around Mars with a high point of 28,046 miles (45,135 km), a low point of 107 miles (173 km), and a period of 35.4 hours. The spacecraft is currently executing the P26 command sequence, and all systems continue to perform as expected.

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