Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Mission Status
NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, launched on Aug. 12, has
completed one of the first tasks of its seven-month cruise to Mars,
a calibration activity for the spacecraft's Mars Color Imager instrument.
Image right: Artist's concept of Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter en route to Mars. Image credit: NASA/JPL + Browse version of image
"We have transitioned from launch mode to cruise mode, and the spacecraft
continues to perform extremely well," said Dan Johnston, Mars Reconnaissance
Orbiter deputy mission manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
The first and largest of four trajectory correction maneuvers scheduled before
the orbiter reaches Mars is planned for Aug. 27.
For the calibration task on Aug. 15, the spacecraft slewed about 15 degrees
to scan the camera across the positions of the Earth and Moon, then returned
to the attitude it will hold for most of the cruise. Data were properly recorded
onboard, downlinked to Earth and received by the Mars Color Imager team at Malin
Space Science Systems, San Diego. Dr. Michael Malin of Malin Space Science Systems,
principal investigator for Mars Color Imager, said the image data are being processed
This multiple-waveband camera is the widest-angle instrument of four cameras on the
orbiter, designed for imaging all of Mars daily from an altitude of about 300 kilometers
(186 miles). Imaged at a range of more than 1 million kilometers (620,000 miles) away,
the crescent Earth and Moon fill only a few pixels and are not resolved in the image.
However, this is enough useful information to characterize the instrument's response
in its seven color bands, including two ultraviolet channels that will be used to trace
ozone in the Mars atmosphere.? This is the first of two events early in the cruise phase
that check instrument calibrations after launching. The second will occur in early September
when higher resolution cameras are pointed at Earth and the Moon as the spacecraft continues
its flight to Mars.
The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter will reach Mars and enter orbit on about March 10, 2006.
After gradually adjusting the shape of its orbit for half a year, it will begin its primary
science phase in November 2006. The mission will examine Mars in unprecedented detail from
low orbit, returning several times more data than all previous Mars missions combined.
Scientists will use its instruments to gain a better understanding of the history and
current distribution of Mars' water. By inspecting possible landing sites and by providing
a high-data-rate relay, it will also support future missions that land on Mars.
More information about the mission is available online at http://www.nasa.gov/mro
The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter mission is managed by JPL, a division of the California
Institute of Technology, Pasadena, for the NASA Science Mission Directorate. Lockheed Martin
Space Systems, Denver, prime contractor for the project, built both the spacecraft and
the launch vehicle.
Guy Webster (818) 354-6278
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
Dolores Beasley (202) 358-1753
NASA Headquarters, Washington, D.C.