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Surveyor Keeps Going and Going...
News story originally written on September 10, 1997

NASA's Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) spacecraft is expected to enter Martian orbit on Thursday, September 11th. The Surveyor will have travelled 750 million kilometers (466 million miles) over the course of its 300-day journey.

The manuever into Martian orbit is a tricky one. If the craft's plunge is too deep it will fall through the atmosphere and be burned up. If the craft's dive is too shallow is will skip off of the atmosphere flying into deep space. NASA managers are nervously anticipating the entry into orbit. Many remember the loss of Surveyor's predecessor in 1993, the Mars Observer."I'll tell you, we're all a little nervous simply because of the history and simply because so many of us were also members of the Mars Observer team," said NASA project manager Glenn Cunningham. "But our expectations are riding very, very high."

The Surveyor is the partner of the Pathfinder lander and rover. While the Pathfinder rover scouted the surface of Mars, the Surveyor's purpose is to provide a comprehensive map of the Martian surface, atmosphere and interior while remaining in orbit around the red planet. The two-year science mission of MGS is scheduled to begin in March 1998 following four months of orbital dips through the atmosphere achieved by a process called aerobraking.

Some interesting trivia is involved with the mission. The Surveyor probe is as tall as five Shaquille O'Neals. It measures 10 meters from the tip of one solar array to the other, and its body is about 1.9 meters tall by 1.4 meters wide. Another interesting piece of information concerns the cost of the mission. The MGS mission has a total cost of $154 million. It has a running time of at least 5 years. In comparison, Kevin Costner's movie Water World costs $174 million and has a running time of about 2 hours.

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