Mars Recon Orbiter Mission... Aug 9, 2005 0:14:50 GMT -6
Post by Chicago Astronomer Joe on Aug 9, 2005 0:14:50 GMT -6
Mars Orbiter to Launch August 10
The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) spacecraft now sits atop its Atlas V rocket ready for launch. The upcoming flight of the powerful booster is the first launch of an Atlas V for NASA.
NASA's next mission to Mars will examine the red planet in unprecedented detail from low orbit and provide more data about the intriguing planet than all previous missions combined. The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and its launch vehicle are nearing final stages of preparation at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Fla., for a launch opportunity that begins Aug. 10.
The spacecraft will examine Martian features ranging from the top of the atmosphere to underground layering. Researchers will use it to study the history and distribution of Martian water. It will also support future Mars missions by characterizing landing sites and providing a high-data-rate communications relay.
"Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is the next step in our ambitious exploration of Mars," said NASA's director, Mars Exploration Program, Science Mission Directorate, Douglas McCuistion. "We expect to use this spacecraft's eyes in the sky in coming years as our primary tools to identify and evaluate the best places for future missions to land."
The spacecraft carries six instruments for probing the atmosphere, surface and subsurface to characterize the planet and how it changed over time. One of the science payload's three cameras will be the largest-diameter telescopic camera ever sent to another planet. It will reveal rocks and layers as small as the width of an office desk. Another camera will expand the present area of high-resolution coverage by a factor of 10. A third will provide global maps of Martian weather.
The other three instruments are a spectrometer for identifying water-related minerals in patches as small as a baseball infield; a ground-penetrating radar, supplied by the Italian Space Agency, to peer beneath the surface for layers or rock, ice and, if present, water; and a radiometer to monitor atmospheric dust, water vapor and temperature.
Two additional scientific investigations will analyze the motion of the spacecraft in orbit to study the structure of the upper atmosphere and the Martian gravity field.
More here: www.physorg.com/news5671.html