This image shows a portion of the Martian terrain and the forward ramp of the Mars Pathfinder lander.
Click on image for full size

The Mars Surveyor Program

Born as a result of the failure of Mars Observer (MO), the Mars Surveyor Program was designed to explore Mars with all the original measurements planned for MO, and a lot more. It varied from the MO mission in that the Surveyor Program would use vastly cheaper spacecraft, and newer, more experimental engineering and design. Among the questions the Mars Surveyor Program was designed to address was where is the Martian water?

The program was suppose to consist of spacecraft to be launched about every 26 months. The launchings were designed to take advantage of periods when the Earth and Mars were closest together.

The spacecraft were named: Mars Pathfinder, Mars Global Surveyor, Mars '98, Mars 2001, Mars 2003, and Mars 2005. The Pathfinder mission was a huge success. And the Mars Global Surveyor is still taking measurements. However, the Mars '98 Orbiter and Lander were lost. After this great disappointment, NASA saw a need to rethink Mars exploration. This concluded the Mars Surveyor Program.

In 2000, a new Mars Exploration Program was announced. This new program includes the Mars Odyssey 2001 mission which was launched in April 2001. It also provides for five other major Mars missions in the next decade. NASA plans to launch twin rovers which will land on Mars in 2003 and a powerful scientific orbiter to be launched in 2005. A mobile science laboratory and the first of several smaller Scout missions are planned for 2007. Wrapping up this phase of exploration would be a sample return mission possibly as early as 2011.

Last modified April 27, 2001 by Jennifer Bergman.

You might also be interested in:

Cool It! Game

Check out our online store - minerals, fossils, books, activities, jewelry, and household items!...more

An Overview of the Mars Pathfinder Mission

The Mars Pathfinder (MPF) mission was sent to investigate the geology of Mars. Its principal objective was to analyze the rocks and soil of Mars. The MPF consisted of 2 components, a lander and a mobile...more

Mars Odyssey

The Mars Odyssey was launched April 7, 2001, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. After a six-month, 285 million-mile journey, the Odyssey arrived at Mars on October 24, 2001 (02:30 Universal...more

Mars Global Surveyor Magnetometer findings

An important new result from the Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) mission is the definite confirmation of the presence of a magnetosphere around Mars. Previous missions made inconclusive measurements of the...more

Headlines declare: Mars Pathfinder Lands on July 4th

The Mars Pathfinder was launched in December 1996 aboard a Delta II rocket. The spacecraft entered the Martian atmosphere on July 4th, 1997 with a Viking-derived heat shield and landed with the help of...more

Mars 2005

The Mars 2005 mission is still in the planning stages. It is set to launch in the year 2005. ...more


On September 12, 1997, the Mars Global Surveyor successfully entered a highly elliptical orbit around Mars. To get into the near-circular, near-polar, low-altitude orbit necessary to map the surface of...more

Mars Global Surveyor Measures Olympus Mons

Mars Global Surveyor carries an instrument which measures the altitudes of things. The instrument is called an altimeter, or "altitude-meter". The graph to the left shows the results returned from Mars...more

Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA