Skip to comments.Mars spacecraft settles into orbit around Red Planet - MRO - Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter
Posted on 09/12/2006 6:30:41 PM PDT by NormsRevenge
PASADENA, Calif. - The most powerful spacecraft ever sent to Mars has settled into a nearly circular orbit, a move that allows scientists to begin studying the planet in unprecedented detail, NASA said Tuesday.
The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter fired its thrusters for 12 minutes Monday to adjust to its final position six months after it arrived at the planet. Its altitude ranges between 155 to 196 miles above the surface.
"Getting to this point is a great achievement," said Dan Johnston, deputy mission manager at the space agency's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which manages the $720 million mission.
Over the next several months, the orbiter will deploy its 33-foot antenna and remove a lens cap from one of its instruments. It will begin collecting data in November, and scientists expect the resolution of those images to be nine times higher.
The unmanned orbiter safely slipped into orbit around Mars in March after a seven-month, 310 million-mile journey. It joined three other spacecraft currently flying around the planet and two rovers rolling across the surface.
Several weeks after entering orbit, a high-resolution camera aboard the spacecraft beamed back a test image showing the planet's southern highlands and cratered surface.
The orbiter spent the last half year repeatedly dipping in to the upper atmosphere to shrink its orbit in a tricky process known as aerobraking.
This image provided by NASA Wednesday Sept. 6, 2006 shows the path of the Mars rover Opportunity as it nears the Martian crater Victoria. Victoria is the large crater near the bottom of this map. The gold line traces Opportunity's path eastward then southward from 'Eagle Crater,' where it landed, to Endurance Crater, where it spent six months, and nearly to Victoria. The south end of the line indicates Opportunity's location as of the rover's 930th Martian day, or sol, (Sept. 5, 2006). (AP Photo/NASA/JPL/MSSS/Ohio State University)
This image from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft generated from digital topography taken on March 24, 2006 shows an overview of the Mars terrain. China and Russia plan to launch a joint mission to Mars in 2009 to scoop up rocks from the red planet and one of its moons, a Chinese scientist said on Wednesday. REUTERS/NASA/JPL/Handout
I watch them both every day and I'm eagerly awaiting new photos from the Reconnaissance orbiter.
Fantastic! Will it be able to talk to the rovers?
Mars is pretty cool, .. when it's not hot,, that is. ;-)
NASA JPL MRO site
Cool! Thanks for the update.
Meanwhile Islam considers the religious rammifications of using toilet paper.
Best perspective of the day.
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