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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 had begun its aerobraking procedure. Aerobraking is when a spacecraft drags its solar panels through the atmosphere so that the spacecraft dips closer to the planet. From this lower orbit, the Surveyor could map the entire surface of Mars!
Unfortunately, this aerobraking has been interrupted because one of the solar panels on Surveyor did not open. This was dangerous for the whole spacecraft because it made the spacecraft unbalanced.
NASA decided to put a two-week hold on any aerobraking. During this break, scientists hope to find a solution to the solar panel problem. The Surveyor will continue to collect science data during this break.
Decisions about the future of the Surveyor mission will be made by Monday, October 27. Scientists are still excited about the mission. Project manager Glenn Cunningham said, "The spacecraft, except for the uncertainty concerning the -Y solar panel, and all its instruments are working exceptionally well, and we continue to have great expectations for the discoveries that this mission will return."
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