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Launching Mr. O

Mary Kohlmiller


Have you heard about the spacecraft called Mr. O? Actually it is the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter or MRO. It was launched on August 12, 2005 starting a 7 month flight to Mars and a nearly equal amount of time shaping its orbit for its scientific mission. The orbiter will use aerobraking to adjust its orbit from a long elliptical one to a more nearly circular orbit. It carries 6 scientific instruments for examining the surface, atmosphere and subsurface of Mars. The instruments will be used to learn about the history and distribution of water on Mars. The MRO will also be used to evaluate future landing sites for upcoming missions.

MRO will arrive at Mars on March 10, 2006. The science phase will commence in November 2006. One NASA scientist says that the MRO will change the data rate returned from Mars from a trickle to a fire hose. More specifically it will return 10 times as much data per minute as the best Martian spacecraft to date.

The next launches to Mars are the Phoenix Mars Scout in 2007 and the Mars Science Laboratory in 2009. The Phoenix will land near the northern polar ice cap. The Science Lab will be a large, advanced rover. Both missions will use the MRO to transmit data back to Earth.

James Graf is the project manager for the MRO mission. He is at NASA/JPL. More information is available here.


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