Skip to comments.Mars-Bound Craft Nearing End of Journey - Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter or MRO
Posted on 02/25/2006 10:38:45 PM PST by NormsRevenge
LOS ANGELES - A NASA spacecraft bound for Mars is nearing the end of its seven-month journey but still faces a white-knuckle arrival at a planet known for swallowing scientific probes, mission managers said Friday.
The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, or MRO, is on course to enter orbit around the Red Planet on March 10. If successful, it will spend the next two years photographing the surface and scouting for future landing sites.
The spacecraft is performing so well that engineers have canceled two final maneuvers to adjust its course in the last leg of the trip, said James Graf, project manager from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.
"We're right on the money right now, heading toward our encounter with Mars," Graf told a news conference at NASA headquarters in Washington.
Despite the optimism, the greatest challenge of the $720 million mission is yet to come. Within the last 15 years, NASA has lost two spacecraft during the tricky orbit-insertion phase around Mars.
In 1993, scientists lost contact with the Mars Observer just before it was to enter orbit. The space agency was dealt another blow six years later when the Mars Climate Orbiter failed on arrival.
Engineers hope the two-ton Reconnaissance Orbiter, which has journeyed nearly 300 million miles, will not suffer the same fate.
During the March 10 rendezvous, the spacecraft will fire its thrusters to slow down so that it can be caught by Mars' gravity. At one point during the maneuver, the orbiter will fly behind Mars, temporarily cutting off radio contact with ground controllers.
After it begins circling the planet, the spacecraft will for the next seven months adjust its orbit by dipping down into Mars' upper atmosphere, using friction to slow its speed and lower its altitude.
Launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla., last August, the Reconnaissance Orbiter is loaded with cameras, antenna and radar. It is expected to collect more data on the Red Planet than all previous Martian missions combined.
On the Net:
Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter: http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/mro
This artist rendering provided by NASA shows the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter over the Martian landscape. (AP Photo/NASA)
thanks for posting this
Spacecraft Parts: Instruments
The spacecraft carries six science instruments, three engineering instruments, and two more science-facility experiments.
During its two-year primary science mission, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter will conduct eight different science investigations at Mars. The investigations are functionally divided into three purposes: global mapping, regional surveying, and high-resolution targeting of specific spots on the surface.
HiRISE (High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment)
This visible camera can reveal small-scale objects in the debris blankets of mysterious gullies and details of geologic structure of canyons, craters, and layered deposits.
CTX (Context Camera)
This camera will provide wide area views to help provide a context for high-resolution analysis of key spots on Mars provided by HiRISE and CRISM.
MARCI (Mars Color Imager)
This weather camera will monitor clouds and dust storms.
CRISM (Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars)
This instrument splits visible and near-infrared light of its images into hundreds of "colors" that identify minerals, especially those likely formed in the presence of water, in surface areas on Mars not much bigger than a football field.
MCS (Mars Climate Sounder)
This atmospheric profiler will detect vertical variations of temperature, dust, and water vapor concentrations in the Martian atmosphere.
SHARAD (Shallow Radar)
This sounding radar will probe beneath the Martian surface to see if water ice is present at depths greater than one meter.
Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter will carry three instruments that will assist in spacecraft navigation and communications.
Electra UHF Communications and Navigation Package
Electra allows the spacecraft to act as a communications relay between the Earth and landed crafts on Mars that may not have sufficient radio power to communicate directly with Earth by themselves.
Optical Navigation Camera
This camera is being tested for improved navigation capability for future missions. If it performs well, similar cameras placed on orbiters of the future would be able to serve as high-precision interplanetary "eyes" to guide incoming spacecraft as they near Mars.
Ka-band Telecommunications Experiment Package
Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter will test the use of a radio frequency called Ka-band to demonstrate the potential for greater performance in communications using significantly less power.
Science Facility Experiments:
Two additional science investigations will be carried out using engineering data.
Gravity Field Investigation Package
By tracking the orbiter in the primary science phase, team members will be able to map the gravity field or Mars to understand the geology of the surface and near-surface and the geophysical processes that produce these land features. For example, analysis could reveal how the planet's mass is redistributed as the Martian polar caps form and dissipate seasonally.
Atmospheric Structure Investigation Accelerometers
Data will be collected from accelerometers. During aerobraking, the accelerometers will help scientists understand the structure of the Martian atmosphere.
Mars known for swallowing space ships?
Wasn't one of those losses because some idiot didn't know the difference between the metric and the English systems of measurements, and the ship crashed when it wasn't programed to stop at the right time? Hardly Mars fault. If this was one of the two failures in 15 years, hardly a bad record. Actually better than our space record with two shiploads of astronauts lost in 15 years. Should we say that Earth swallows spaceships because of faulty O rings and loose foam insulation?
Maybe NASA can set up a launch site on Mars and launch Orbiters to earth to see what is going on there. It seems like a pretty screwed up place.
Soon, the aliens are going to knock it out. They always do. ;-)
Looks like a cow, for sure, don't know about the "holy" part!
Yes, you remember that one well, back in 1999, the Mars Climate Orbiter crashed. See:
Not always. They've been nice enough to clean the solar panels on the two rovers when the dust starts building up. For some reason they seem to like those devices.
I'll bet they gamble on the direction and distance covered on each move!
Could 'Live Thread' be added to the title for this event?
Here is a timeline of Friday's major events (in Earth-received Eastern Time):
10:24 a.m.: Final trajectory correction maneuver if needed
04:07 p.m.: Start spacecraft turn to orbit-insertion orientation
04:19 p.m.: Turn complete
04:24 p.m.: Orbit insertion rocket firing begins
04:45 p.m.: Spacecraft enters Martian shadow; on battery power
04:47 p.m.: Loss of signal as MRO passes behind Mars
04:51 p.m.: End of orbit insertion burn
05:13 p.m.: Spacecraft turns for Earth pointing
05:16 p.m.: Acquisition of signal
The spacecraft is performing so well that engineers have canceled two final maneuvers to adjust its course in the last leg of the trip, said James Graf, project manager from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.:') So, is there a live thread?
Could be this one, or the other one, or a new one if somebody takes the initiative.
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