Illustration of Mars Global Surveyor

"Orbiting the Red Planet: News from the Mars Global Surveyor Mission" will be the theme for a free public lecture at 7 p.m. PDT Thursday, October 16, in JPL's von Karman Auditorium. Seating is limited and will be on a first come, first-served basis.

Presenting the lecture will be Glenn E. Cunningham, project manager of the Mars Global Surveyor mission. Cunningham joined JPL in 1966 as an engineer in the Spacecraft System Design and Integration Section. Since then he has worked on a number of spacecraft missions, including the 1969 Mariner Mars mission, the Voyager mission to the outer planets and the Mars Observer mission.

On September 11, Mars Global Surveyor entered orbit around Mars, beginning the initial phase of using the planet's atmosphere to slow down into a near-circular mapping orbit, a technique called aerobraking. When the spacecraft reaches its final orbit configuration in March 1998, it will conduct a comprehensive mapping of the red planet over a full Martian year.

Within a week of its capture in orbit around Mars, instruments onboard the spacecraft detected the presence of a weak magnetic field around Mars. Further investigations have shown that Mars' magnetic field is not global, but localized in particular areas of the planet's crust, which is unlike the magnetic fields of other planets such as Earth, Jupiter and Saturn. The existence of these magnetic anomalies indicates that Mars once had a liquid core able to support an internal energy source, or dynamo, that froze and solidified early in the planet's evolution.

This lecture is part of the von Karman Lecture Series held monthly by the JPL Public Information Office. A web site on the lecture series is located at For directions and other information, call the Public Information Office at (818) 354-5011.

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