The Mars Global Surveyor mission is an important one. Launched November
6, 1996 on a Delta II launch vehicle from Cape Canaveral, Fla., Surveyor
will arrived at Mars 10 months later on September 15, 1997. After an
aerobraking process to slow down, the spacecraft explored the atmosphere
and terrain of Mars to produce maps of surface topography, mineral distribution
and climate. It will also relay signals from other landers and probes
for three more years.
Surveyor is the first in a series of Mars-bound orbiter-lander pairs
that will be launched every 26 months for a decade. It is hoped that
the Mars Surveyor program will not only provide valuable information
about Mars for years to come, but that it will aid in the development
of new technologies for future missions.