Saturday, March 11, 2006

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter success

Nasa's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) has successfully entered orbit around Mars.

At 2124 GMT (1334 PST), the spacecraft fired its engines as it approached the south side of the planet. 20 minutes later, the MRO switched from solar to battery power and entered into a period of radio silence behind the planet. The waiting team at the JPL lab in Pasadena were jubilant when the probe then broke radio silence. The probe is now in a 35-hour elliptical trajectory around the planet. At its furthest point it will swing out to about 44,000km (27,000 miles) above the planet's surface, but will spend the next six months adjusting the orbit by aerobreaking to enter a final circular 2 hour orbit. Only then will the science mission begin. The orbiter has 6 science instruments onboard, including the highest resolution camera ever sent to Mars.