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Mars Global Surveyor will conduct mapping operations at Mars more than 30 years after America's first reconnaissance mission reached the mysterious red planet. Since then, an entire generation of scientists have spent their careers attempting to unlock the secrets of Mars by analyzing data transmitted back to Earth by NASA's robotic explorers. These efforts resulted in a tremendous expansion of knowledge compared to what was known on that fateful October evening in 1938 when fictitious Martian invaders declared war on America during Orson Welles' broadcast of War of the Worlds. However, many questions remain unanswered. The data returned from the Surveyor mission will yield valuable insights into these mysteries.

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The camera will produce a daily wide-angle image of Mars similar to weather photographs of the Earth shown on the nightly news. In addition, the narrow-angle lens will capture images of objects as small as 1.5 meters across.

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The laser altimeter will bounce beams of light off of the surface to measure the heights of mountains and depths of valleys.

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The thermal emission spectrometer will scan for heat emitted from Mars to study the atmosphere and to map the mineral composition of the surface.

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The magnetometer will study the magnetic properties of Mars to gain insight into the interior of the planet.

The relay antenna will receive data transmitted to Surveyor from future NASA spacecraft that will land on the Martian surface.

An analysis of radio signals sent to Earth from Surveyor will reveal the precise shape of the planet and structure of the atmosphere.