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Keith Henry
(Phone 757/864-6120/344-7211)

Chris Rink
(Phone 757/864-6786/344-7711)

Media Availability Before Start of Mars Aerobraking

News media interested in participating in the NASA Langley Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter media availability March 15 should call Keith Henry at 864-6120/344-7211 to arrange for access and escort to the Langley Newsroom.

On March 10, NASA's newest spacecraft to reach Mars performed a critical engine burn and successfully put itself into orbit. The spacecraft, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), will provide more science data than all previous Mars missions combined, but before scientists can begin studying the planet's surface -- looking for evidence of former life and future landing sites -- engineers must adjust the orbit to the right size and shape.

In about two weeks an engineering team that includes specialists from NASA Langley, will begin a six-month process of "aerobraking" -- slowing the spacecraft by dipping into the planet's rarified atmosphere. That will result in an orbit that is within easy camera range of the Martian surface and that will trace a nearly perfect circle.

On March 15 from 1-2 p.m. NASA Langley experts will be available to Hampton Roads and Richmond area news media to address Langley's role in the MRO mission.

NASA Langley will support NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) during aerobraking by providing data to help understand how flying through the Martian atmosphere is likely to affect the spacecraft's trajectory and how it will affect heating of sensitive components. Langley engineers will keep mission managers advised about spacecraft condition and contribute to the decision-making process before aerobraking maneuvers.

For information and images regarding the MRO mission on the Web, visit:


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