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Saturday, March 11, 2006

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Enters Orbit

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) entered the orbit of Mars this morning. At 5:16PM EST, the rover appeared from behind Mars. The craft is now in a seven-month aerobraking stage. This will take it from a 35hr orbit approx. 56,000km in altitude to a 2hr orbit approx. 300km-250km in altitude. "This is a great milestone to have accomplished, but it's just one of many milestones before we can open the champagne," said Colleen Hartman, deputy associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate. "Once we are in the prime science orbit, the spacecraft will perform observations of the atmosphere, surface, and subsurface of Mars in unprecedented detail." By unprecedented detail she means that it will return more data, ~56 trillion bytes in all, than all previous missions. The MRO has a spectrometer, color cameras (one being able to view items about 1m2 in size), and a radiometer. It will image the surface, watch the weather, and monitor how the atmosphere changes. Since the MRO can transmit data 10 times faster than any other orbiter, it will also be used as a relay station for other missions.

Thank you to the loyal visitors who reminded me about the mission. Also, apologies for the lag in news, I promise I will try to be more regular.

More info: NASA/JPL and New Scientist)

- posted by Jim @ 17:28 EST