NASA's MRO completes 60,000 trips around Mars

phys.org | 3/10/2006 | Staff
Cayley1561 (Posted by) Level 3
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NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter hit a dizzying milestone this morning: It completed 60,000 loops around the Red Planet at 10:39 a.m. PDT (1:39 p.m. EDT). On average, MRO takes 112 minutes to circle Mars, whipping around at about 2 miles per second (3.4 kilometers per second).

Since entering orbit on March 10, 2006, the spacecraft has been collecting daily science about the planet's surface and atmosphere, including detailed views with its High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment camera (HiRISE). HiRISE is powerful enough to see surface features the size of a dining room table from 186 miles (300 kilometers) above the surface.

MRO - Weather - Subsurface - Ice - Data

Meanwhile, MRO is watching the daily weather and probing the subsurface for ice, providing data that can influence the designs of future missions that will take humans to Mars.

But MRO isn't just sending back its own science; it serves in a network of relays that beam data back to Earth from NASA's Mars rovers and landers. Later this month, MRO will hit another milestone: It will have relayed 1 terabit of data, largely from NASA's Curiosity rover. If you've ever enjoyed one of Curiosity's selfies or sprawling landscapes or wondered at its scientific discoveries, MRO probably helped make them possible.

MRO - Scientists - Public - Perspective - Mars

"MRO has given scientists and the public a new perspective of Mars," said Project Manager Dan Johnston at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, which leads the mission. "We've also supported NASA's fleet of Mars surface missions, allowing them to send their images and discoveries back to scientists on Earth."

While rovers and landers can study only their immediate vicinity, orbiters can view wide swaths of the entire planet; MRO can actually target any point on the Martian globe approximately once every two weeks.

MRO - Perspective - Scientists - View - Planet

MRO's aerial perspective also provides scientists a complementary view of a dynamic planet. As seasons change, they can see...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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