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The Mission




Mission: Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter
Arrival: March 10, 2006
MOI burn start:
4:24 p.m. EST (2124 GMT)
Out of Earth view:
4:47 p.m. EST (2147 GMT)
MOI burn complete:
4:51 p.m. EST (2151 GMT)
Signal restored:
5:16 p.m. EST (2216 GMT)

Video coverage

Mission Status Center

Our earlier MRO stories

Orbit insertion timeline

MRO instruments

Science objectives

Technology objectives

Missions to Mars

What we know about Mars



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MRO's orbit insertion explained
The make-or-break engine firing by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter to enter orbit around Mars and the subsequent aerobraking to reach the low-altitude perch for science observations are explained by project manager Jim Graf in this narrated animation package.

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MRO overview briefing
Fuk Li, Mars program manager at JPL, Jim Graf, MRO project manager, Rich Zurek, MRO project scientist, and Dan McCleese, the principal investigator for the Mars Climate Sounder instrument, provide an overview on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter on March 8, about 48 hours before arrival at Mars.

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Mars orbiter briefing
With two weeks until its arrival at the red planet, NASA and Lockheed Martin officials hold this Feb. 24 news conference on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The briefing explains how the MRO spacecraft will fire its engines to enter into orbit around Mars and the mission's scientific goals to examine the planet like never before.

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Mars probe leaves Earth
The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter lifts off aboard a Lockheed Martin Atlas 5 rocket from Cape Canaveral's Complex 41.

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Mars rover anniversary
The remarkable rovers Spirit and Opportunity remain alive and well on the surface of the Red Planet, far outlasting their planned 90-day missions. On Jan. 24, the second anniversary of Opportunity's landing, project officials and scientists held this celebration event at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

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STS-7: America's first woman astronaut
The seventh flight of the space shuttle is remembered for breaking the gender barrier for U.S. spaceflight. Sally Ride flew into space and the history books with her historic June 1983 mission, becoming America's first woman astronaut. STS-7 also launched a pair of commercial communications spacecraft, then deployed a small platform fitted with experiments and camera package that captured iconic pictures of Challenger flying above the blue Earth and black void of space. The crew members narrate highlights from the mission in this post-flight film presentation.

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STS-6: Challenger debut
The space shuttle program became a two-orbiter fleet on April 4, 1983 when Challenger launched on its maiden voyage from Kennedy Space Center. The STS-6 mission featured the first ever spacewalk from a space shuttle and the deployment of NASA's first Tracking and Data Relay Satellite. The four astronauts narrate a movie of highlights from their five-day mission in this post-flight presentation.

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Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter takes test images
NASA NEWS RELEASE
Posted: March 24, 2006

The first test images of Mars from NASA's newest spacecraft provide a tantalizing preview of what the orbiter will reveal when its main science mission begins next fall.


This view shows the ground covered in the first image of Mars taken by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment camera (HiRISE) on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona
Download larger image version here

 
Three cameras on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter were pointed at Mars at 11:36 p.m. EST, Thursday, while the spacecraft collected 40 minutes of engineering test data. The three cameras are the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment, Context Camera and Mars Color Imager.

"These high resolution images of Mars are thrilling, and unique given the early morning time-of-day. The final orbit of Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter will be over Mars in the mid-afternoon, like Mars Global Surveyor and Mars Odyssey," said Alfred McEwen, of the University of Arizona, Tucson, the principal investigator for the orbiter's High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment camera.

"These images provide the first opportunity to test camera settings and the spacecraft's ability to point the camera with Mars filling the instruments' field of view," said Steve Saunders, the mission's program scientist at NASA Headquarters. "The information learned will be used to prepare for the primary mission next fall." The main purpose of these images is to enable the camera team to develop calibration and image-processing procedures such as the precise corrections needed for color imaging and for high-resolution surface measurements from stereo pairs of images.

To get desired groundspeeds and lighting conditions for the images, researchers programmed the cameras to shoot while the spacecraft was flying about 1,547 miles or more above Mars, nine times the range planned for the primary science mission. Even so, the highest resolution of about 8 feet per pixel - an object 8 feet in diameter would appear as a dot - is comparable to some of the best resolution previously achieved from Mars orbit.


This view shows a full-resolution portion of the first image of Mars taken by HiRISE. This view covers an area about 4.5 by 2.1 kilometers (1.6 by 1.3 miles) Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona
Download larger image version here

 
Further processing of the images during the next week or two is expected to combine narrow swaths into broader views and show color in some portions.

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has been flying in elongated orbits around Mars since it entered orbit on March 10. Every 35 hours, it has swung from about 27,000 miles away from the planet to within about 264 miles of Mars' surface.

Mission operations teams at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., and at Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, continue preparing for aerobraking. That process will use about 550 careful dips into the atmosphere during the next seven months to shrink the orbit to a near-circular shape less than 200 miles above the ground.

More than 25 gigabits of imaging data, enough to nearly fill five CD-ROMs, were received through NASA's Deep Space Network station at Canberra, Australia, and sent to JPL. They were made available to the camera teams at the University of Arizona Lunar and Planetary Laboratory and Malin Space Science Systems, San Diego, Calif.

Additional processing has begun for release of other images from the test in coming days.


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