The Mars Observer is scheduled to enter the planet's orbit on August 24, 1 month ahead of the original arrival date. Launched on September 25, 1992, the Observer is the first U.S. spacecraft to visit Mars since Viking 2 in 1976, marking the next step in exploration of the planet. The Mars Observer mission will study the geology, geophysics, and climate of Mars.
The spacecraft underwent a power boost to arrive earlier than planned in order to gain more observing time before the solar conjunction, said Donald Savage of NASA's Washington, D.C., news office. Overall, the spacecraft fared well during its 11-month journey, he said, noting that there were some periodic software problems, but nothing that damaged the mission.