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NASA/JPL

Surveyor Mission Remains on Target Despite Glitch
News story originally written on October 20, 1997

The Mars Global Surveyor got to Mars on September 11. The spacecraft started its aerobraking. Aerobraking is when a spacecraft drags its solar panels through the atmosphere so that the spacecraft dips closer to the planet. Just think of holding both of your arms out and being dragged through water -- it would slow you down wouldn't it? This is the same way aerobraking works!

Unfortunately, the Surveyor's aerobraking has been stopped. One of the solar panels on Surveyor did not open. This was dangerous for the whole spacecraft because it made the spacecraft unbalanced. This would be like you holding only one arm out while being dragged through the water -- you wouldn't be very balanced with only one arm out!

NASA decided to take a two-week break on any aerobraking. NASA scientists hope to aerobrake later so the Surveyor can get closer to Mars. Being closer to the planet means that the Surveyor could take better pictures of Mars.

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