NASA’s Mars Orbiter Completes 50,000 Orbits

Posted: Mar 30 2017, 11:59am CDT | by , in News | Latest Science News

 
NASA’s Mars Orbiter Completes 50,000 Orbits
Credit: NASA

Mar Reconnaissance Orbiter completed its 50,000th orbit on Monday March 27

In March 2006, NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter arrived at Mars orbit. Eleven years later, the orbiter has completed its 50,000 orbit around the planet, making it the only Martian orbiter to reach the milestone.

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter was blasted off from Cape Canaveral in 2005. Over the course of around 11 years, the orbiter generated vast amount of scientific data and it continues to provide most prolific coverage of the Red Planet ever achieved by any other spacecraft. For comparison, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter sends more data every week than the other currently active missions at Mars combined. The 50,000th orbit of Mars orbiter was completed on Monday, March 27.

“After 11 and a half year in flight, the spacecraft is healthy and remains fully functional,” said MRO project manager, Dan Johnston. “It’s a marvelous vehicle that we expect will serve the Mars exploration program and Mars science for many more years to come.”

MRO Context Camera, mounted on the spacecraft, has taken around 90,000 images and covered 99.1 percent of Mars since the orbiter arrived at the planet. This is equivalent to the area size of our Earth. No other camera sent to the Mars has covered so much area of the planet.

“Reaching 99.1-percent coverage has been tricky because a number of factors, including weather conditions, coordination with other instruments, downlink limitations and orbital constraints, tend to limit where we can image and when.” Context Camera Team Leader Michael Malin said.

Among the biggest achievement of the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter was the first strong evidence of the liquid water flow on present-day Mars. In addition, orbiter is providing detailed information about Mars’ geological structure and its atmosphere which will help colonize planet in the future. It is also assisting in the selection of potential landing sites for NASA’s future rover mission.

“Single coverage provides a baseline we can use for comparison with future observations, as we look for changes,” said Malin. “Re-imaging areas serves two functions: looking for changes and acquiring stereoscopic views from which we can make topographic maps.”

Mars orbiter primary mission consisted of two years and it is now in the midst of its second extinction beginning in 2010.

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