The Mars Surveyor 1998 Missions were designed, and their payloads selected, to address the science theme "Volatiles and Climate History" on Mars, thereby directly addressing the climate-history and resource themes of the Mars Surveyor Program, while supporting the life-on-Mars theme through characterization of climate change and its evolving impact on the distribution of water.
Mars Surveyor 98 Science Goals
After Earth, Mars is the planet with the most hospitable climate in the solar system. So hospitable that it may once have harbored primitive, bacteria-like life. Outflow channels and other geologic features provide ample evidence that billions of years ago liquid water flowed on the surface of Mars. Although liquid water may still exist deep below the surface of Mars, currently the temperature is too low and the atmosphere to thin for liquid water to exist at the surface.
Why explore Mars? Additional details are here.
Mars Surveyor 1998 Mission Strategy
To address the "Volatiles and Climate History" theme within the programmatic constraints of cost and affordable launch capabilities, the Mars Climate Orbiter and Mars Polar Lander Missions pursued the following scientific strategy:
- Use seasonal and diurnal cycles of Dust, Water and Carbon Dioxide to understand Processes of climate change over longer time scales
- Characterize global atmospheric structure and circulation to elucidate roles of Atmospheric Transport of Volatiles and Dust
- Land on, and explore, a site having Physical Evidence of ancient climates, atmospheric evolution and more recent, possibly periodic climate change
- Locate surface Ice Reservoirs and search for local Sub-Surface Ice
- Acquire data needed to validate and extend Model Simulations of climate processes and climate change
- Emphasize Comparative Study of the climates of Earth and Mars and their potential implications for origin and development of life
Mars Surveyor 1998 Mission Measurement Objectives
Given the scientific strategy outlined above, the major scientific measurement objectives for the Mars Surveyor Program 1998 Missions are to:
- Systematically observe the thermal structure and dynamics of the global atmosphere and the radiative balance of the polar regions, thereby providing a quantitative climatology of weather regimes and daily to seasonal processes
- Determine the variations with time and space of the atmospheric abundance of dust and of volatile material (i.e., carbon dioxide and water, both vapor and ice) for one full Martian year
- Identify surface reservoirs of volatile material & dust and observe their seasonal variations; characterize surface compositional boundaries and their changes with time; search for near-surface ground ice in the polar regions
- Explore and quantify the climate processes of dust storm onset and decay, of atmospheric transport of volatiles and dust, and of mass exchange between the atmosphere, surface and subsurface
- Search for evidence characterizing ancient climates and more recent periodic climate change
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