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Mars Global Surveyor

While Pathfinder and Sojourner were making history down on Mars, a second American spacecraft, Global Surveyor, was orbiting overhead.

The results? A completely new and revolutionary view of Mars.

One key instrument has been "MOLA" the "Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter."

Circling the planet, "MOLA" fires a burst of laser light down to the Martian surface.

By knowing the spacecraft’s position and how long it takes for the return signal, you can calculate the exact elevation of the Martian surface.

MOLA returns 900,000 measurements a day.

It’s shown us the exact height of the giant volcano, Olympus Mons...

We now know that while the southern part of the planet is high... heavily cratered... and old...

The north is comparatively young... low... and flat.

In this false color view, lower elevations are blue higher are red.

Through "MOLA" we’ve been able to follow channels from Valles Marineris out into the northern lowlands.

Researchers wonder if water once flowed down through here, out to a vast Martian ocean.

Jim Garvin
MOLA Science Team / Mars Program Scientist

Just like Lewis and Clark charted our continent nearly two hundred years ago, Mars Global Surveyor and the measurements we’re making are charting our brother planet. Which is a target, we believe, for human exploration. and this charting, is being done at almost unimaginably fine scales. So our legacy now is to inventory and capture the nature of the skin of Mars so that future robots and people can go there, and live and work on that body.

Mission Links:
 • Athena Mars Exploration Rovers
 • NASA Mars Exploration Rovers
 • 2001 Mars Odyssey
 • Mars Express
 • Mars Global Surveyor
 • Mars Pathfinder
 • Viking Project
 • Mariner
 • Mars Global Surveyor Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC) latest images
 • "MOLA"-Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter
 • Mars Global Surveyor
 • Mars Pathfinder - time of landing
 • Mars Pathfinder - end of mission
Additional Links:
 • Mars Exploration Homepage
 • JPL's Solar System Exploration
 • The Nine Planets
 • Views of the Solar System
 • Windows to the Universe
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