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Saturday, October 4, 2003

NASA Readying MRO

Artist's Conception of Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
Artist's Conception of Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
Credit: NASA/JPL
NASA is close to beginning assembly of the next generation of Martian spacecraft. The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter will be a giant stride forward in terms of science ability and communications. To be launched in 2005, the orbiter will be a huge upgrade to the current Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft.

Besides the incredibly high-resolution camera, which will be able to see the old Viking landers and the crashed Polar Lander, the MRO will contain an imaging spectrometer, a climate detector, subsurface radar, a gravity sensor, accelerometers to determine the structure of the Martian atmosphere, and be able to serve as a communications satellite for future missions, NASA or otherwise. In fact, the most difficult part of the MRO mission may be in interpreting the huge amount of data; while current data transfer rates could be compared to a dial-up modem, the MRO has the equivalent of two DSL modems in parallel, and will be testing experimental Ka-band communications. The bandwidth issues may in fact come from Earth's overloading communications facilities.

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- posted by Brian @ 22:17 EST