Skip to comments.NASA nervous as orbiter nears Mars - MRO begins orbit acquisition process FRiday, March 10 (LIVE Thr
Posted on 03/08/2006 9:35:55 PM PST by NormsRevenge
WASHINGTON (AFP) - NASA scientists were nervous as an orbiter neared Mars after a seven-month voyage carrying the most expensive equipment ever sent to another planet.
"We have a tremendous amount of anxiety and concern at this particular point in time," said Jim Graf, project manager for the Mars Reconnaissance Observer (MRO).
"At the same time we feel confident, we have a very good spacecraft ... (and an) excellent well trained team," he said in a press conference from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
"We are about 325,000 miles (523,036 kilometers) from Mars. We're traveling at about 6,400 miles (10,300 kilometers) an hour and we are going to double our speed as we get closer to Mars," he said.
The tricky part, he said, will be maneuvering the craft into a Mars orbit. Because of the great distance, it takes 12 minutes for data to reach Earth from the craft -- and another 12 minutes for instructions to be sent back.
"There is no time for the team as a whole to react," he said.
"So we have on board all the programs we need to carry out, and the spacecraft has to do it all on its own."
"Mars is unpredictable," Graf said. The tally of travel to Mars is grim: of the 35 missions to Mars since 1960, 21 have failed.
To achieve Mars orbit, the probe's engines will begin firing at 2125 GMT on Friday for 27 minutes. That should slow the craft enough to allow its capture by Mars' gravity.
About 20 minutes later, the orbiter will disappear behind Mars for 30 minutes before it renews contact with very anxious scientists on Earth.
At first, the probe will be in a highly elliptical orbit 400 kilometers (250 miles) above Mars at the closest point and 44,000 kilometers (27,340 miles) at its apogee.
In late March, NASA engineers will start operations to bring the probe to a round orbit close to Mars so it can begin its 25-month observation mission.
The MRO carries six observation and analysis instruments to search from its outer atmosphere to below the martian surface for signs of water and ice.
NASA artist's conception image shows the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). NASA scientists were nervous as the MRO neared Mars after a seven-month voyage, carrying the most expensive equipment ever sent to another planet.(AFP/NASA-HO/File)
This artist rendering provided by NASA shows the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter over the Martian landscape. (AP Photo/NASA)
Please keep us updated on this great feat and is a robot lander included.
No robotic landers onboard this bird.
More are in the works tho..
The Nasa MRO main page is
Instead of "landing" maybe they should consider calling it "splashdown". Positive thinking can lead to positive results.
Right around now is when they always get shot down.
Thank you for posting this. I love this stuff.
Yup, A 60% loss rate is pretty high.
This is an arduous journey and has definitely tested the craft and those controlling them millions of miles away as they seek to either orbit or land the craft.
My hunch is this one will make it.
I'd feel a whole lot better if they weren't still talking in both miles and kilometers...
Here's to hoping that the latest generation of rocket scientists remember to do their math right. We've already had one lost due to someone's lack of attention to detail.
That said, I'm with Bubbatuck. Being a space program junkie from the Apollo days, I love hearing about the ongoing programs.
I'm glad we have a place like FR to share what was a hobby and a real spellbinder for all of us as kids and kids at heart. ;-)
I used to get the program info packages from NASA and put all the posters and pamphlets on my bedroom wall. This was back in the 60s.
MRO almost 'there' Ping
Even though I was in single-digit age at the time, I have vivid memories of Apollo 8, Apollo 11, and Apollo 13.
I hope someday, the adventure continues.
Oh, it's time again for NASA to "lose" another martian spacecraft...so it can go black op. \sarcasm
Mar 10: Live Mars Orbit Insertion Coverage (12:30 - 2:45 pm Pacific) will be on NASA TV: http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/nasatv/index.html
It's not just spatial units:
timeline of Friday's major events (in Earth-received Eastern Time)
E-rET is yet another time scale.
Colleagues and friends of mine are on that flight team.
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