Mars global surveyor aerobraking : atmospheric trends and model interpretation
Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) recently obtained coordinated lower-atmosphere (thermal and dust) measurements and simultaneous upper atmosphere accelerometer data (densities, scale heights and temperatures) for the purpose of safely aerobraking the spacecraft toward its mapping orbit. Much useful scientific information was also gleaned that describes the coupling of these atmospheric regions during this Phase I aerobraking period (September 1997-March 1998; Ls = 184-300). The major features of this aerobraking data are presented, and its trends elucidated in order to : (1) illustrate the aerobraking environment experienced by the spacecraft, and (2) decompose the processes responsible for the atmospheric variations observed. Coupled general circulation models of the Mars lower and upper atmospheres are exercised to investigate the solar-orbital, seasonal, wave, and dust variations observed during MGS aerobraking. The precession of the MGS periapsis position during Phase I permits longitudinal, latitudinal, local time, and vertical variations of the thermosphere to be monitored. Future aerobraking activities at Mars will benefit greatly from this MGS aerobraking data and its model interpretation.
Advances in Space Research
- Pub Date:
- January 1999