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NASA gets ready for Mars exploration

NASA ready with new MRO.


10 August, 2005: NASA takes the next leap towards Mars exploration with its new Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). The MRO is expected to launch on Wednesday, August 10. The MRO is on a mission to understand the planet's water riddles. Also it will be the next big step in the exploration of the mysterious red planet.

The MARS mission's first launch opportunity window is set at 7:54 to 9:39 am, Wednesday. Additional launch windows open daily at different times each morning through August, incase the launch is postponed. For the shortest trip between Mars and Earth, the planets move into good position for only a short period every 26 months. The best time for the mission launch is when the Earth is about to overtake Mars in their concentric racing lanes around the sun.

"The teams preparing this orbiter and its launch vehicle have done excellent work and kept to schedule. We have a big spacecraft loaded with advanced instruments for inspecting Mars in greater detail than any previous orbiter, and we have the first Atlas V launch vehicle to carry an interplanetary mission", said NASA's Mars Exploration Program Director Doug McCuistion.

Mission to Mars is expected to lift-off from Launch Complex 41, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. This happens to be the first government launch of Lockheed Martin's Atlas V launch vehicle.

When the MRO reaches the Mars' surface in March it begins a half-year "aerobraking" process. The shape of the orbit is gradually adjusted by the MRO using friction from carefully calculated dips into the top of the Martian atmosphere. The primary science phase of the MRO begins in November 2006.

"Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter will give us several times more data about Mars than all previous missions combined," said James Graf, project manager for the mission at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena Calif.

The data sent from the MRO will be examined by the researchers to study the history and distribution of Martian water. By learning more about the Martian water will generate a clear idea about possible past or present Martian life. Potential landing sites for future explorations and providing a communication link between the Earth and Mars can be examined by the data sent from the MRO.

The new MRO craft is designed to transmit about 10 times as much data per minute as any previous Mars spacecraft. With the enhanced design technology, it can transmit detailed observations of the Martian surface, subsurface and atmosphere by the instruments on the orbiter and enable data relay from other landers on the Martian surface to Earth. Another Mars exploration vehicle Phoenix Mars Scout is getting ready to launch in 2007 to land on the far northern Martian surface. NASA is also developing an advanced rover, the Mars Science Laboratory, for launch in 2009.

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