Mars Global Surveyor
Comparison of Face on Mars
Mars Global Surveyor

Mars Global Surveyor

Courtesy of NASA

Mars Global Surveyor orbited above Mars for nearly 9 years, methodically collecting images and data to make a complete map of the Martian surface. Due to a computer software error, MGS was given incorrect information that likely resulted in melted batteries, loss of power, and ultimate loss of the spacecraft.

November 7, 1996

September 11, 1997

End of Mission
(last communication and loss of spacecraft) November 2, 2006; January 28, 2007


  • Collect global snapshots from 400 km (249 miles) above the Martian surface by circling in a polar orbit (traveling over the north pole to the south pole and back to the north pole) once every 2 hours, 12 times a day.
  • Contribute to the four main science goals of the Mars Exploration Program:
    1. determine whether life ever arose on Mars,
    2. characterize the climate of Mars,
    3. characterize the geology of Mars, and
    4. prepare for human exploration.

Mars Global Surveyor found signs of past water, such as an ancient delta, as well as currently active water features in the gullies of canyon walls. A delta-like fan on Mars suggests ancient rivers were there for long periods of time and other images suggest water still flows in brief spurts on Mars.