Douglas Isbell Headquarters, Washington, DC (Phone: 202/358-1753) RELEASE: 96-25

February 7, 1996

RUSSIAN INSTRUMENT ON MARS LANDER WILL MONITOR ATMOSPHERIC DUST A small, lightweight Russian laser-ranging device designed to measure dust and haze in the Martian atmosphere has been selected by NASA officials to fly aboard a U.S. Mars lander spacecraft due for launch in January 1999. Known as the 1998 Mars Surveyor Lander, the mission will be the first ever sent to the polar regions of Mars, where it should encounter layers of icy terrain that represent a preserved record of the planet's climate history. The laser-ranging device, or lidar, will be provided to NASA by Dr. Vyacheslav Linkin of the Space Research Institute (IKI) of the Russian Academy of Science, under the sponsorship of the Russian Space Agency (RSA). "Measurements from this device should help us better understand the relationship between the amount of dust and aerosols in the lower-most part of the Martian atmosphere and the planet's regional weather conditions," said Wesley T. Huntress Jr., NASA Associate Administrator for Space Science. "In addition to this important science goal, the lidar will be the first Russian instrument to fly aboard a U.S. planetary spacecraft, so it represents a new degree of international cooperation in the exploration of our solar system." Mounted on top of the lander for a clear view of the Martian sky, the 2.2 lb. (approximately 1 kilogram) instrument will send short pulses of focused light into the atmosphere and then measure the amount of light scattered back. This effect is similar to the way that automobile headlights reflect fog -the thicker the fog, the more light that is scattered back to the car's driver. The Mars-bound lidar device also can operate in a passive mode, where it uses the Sun as a light source and measures the brightness of the sky.

The 1998 Mars Surveyor Lander also will carry a lightweight camera to take images of the surrounding terrain during the spacecraft's final descent, and an integrated surface science payload that includes a mast-mounted imager, a meteorological station, a soil composition analyzer and a robotic arm to dig trenches in the icy soil of the south pole. A companion spacecraft to the Lander, called the 1998 Mars Surveyor Orbiter, will be launched in December 1998. Russia's IKI is providing optical hardware for one of the Orbiter's instruments, the Pressure Modulator Infrared Radiometer. Both of these spacecraft are part of NASA's Mars Surveyor Program, a decade-long series of cost-capped missions to Mars featuring two launches every 26 months. Lockheed Martin Astronautics, Denver, CO, is building both the 1998 Orbiter and Lander for NASA under a $94 million contract. The Mars Surveyor Program kicks off November 1996 with the launch of the Mars Global Surveyor Orbiter. The Mars Pathfinder Lander, developed under NASA's Discovery Program, will be launched in December 1996. -endNASA press releases and other information are available automatically by sending an Internet electronic mail message to domo@hq.nasa.gov. In the body of the message (not the subject line) users should type the words "subscribe press-release" (no quotes). The system will reply with a confirmation via E-mail of each subscription. A second automatic message will include additional information on the service. NASA releases also are available via CompuServe using the command GO NASA.