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Thursday, 08 February 2007 20:55

NASA Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter working but not without glitches

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It has been reported that the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) has developed a problem with its High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera and Mars Climate Sounder.

The HiRISE camera is a 0.5 meter (1.6 foot) reflecting telescope, with a resolution of 1 microradian (one-millionth of a radian), which allows it to see a 0.3 meter (about 1 foot) object from an altitude of about 300 kilometers (185 miles). One of its goals is to map potential landing sites for future missions to the planet Mars. To accomplish this goal, HiRISE produces pairs of images by which surface features on Mars can be measured to an accuracy of 0.25 meters (0.8 foot). HiRISE was built by Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corporation.

The Mars Climate Sounder observes the atmosphere of Mars while measuring its temperature, ice clouds, and dust particles.

Although the problems are not present all of the time, MRO mission managers are worried with the glitches and are investigating why the problems are occurring. Scientists are expecting a wealth of information from MRO, which greatly increases the concern about these intermittent problems.

NASA’s MRO was designed to perform reconnaissance and exploration of Mars from its orbit about the planet. It was built by Lockheed Martin under the guidance of the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). Launched in August 12, 2005, it reached Martian orbit on March 10, 2006. MRO began its mission to collect scientific data from Mars in November 2006.

Besides MRO, the Mars Odyssey, Mars Express Orbiter, and two Mars Exploration Rovers are currently exploring Mars. Scientists on the Earth lost communications with Mars Global Surveyor in November 2006.

The NASA JPL Web page of the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is: http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/mro/.


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