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news & opinion with no titillating non-news from the major non-news channels.


I am: progressive, not a wild-eyed Progressive; liberal, but shun liberals and Liberals; conservative, but some Conservatives worry me; absolutely NOT a libertarian. I am: an idealist, but no utopian; a pragmatist, but no Machiavellian. I am a realist who dreams.


I welcome all opinions.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Spacecraft aerobrakes for Mars:
   Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter on final approach

This week, NASA's MRO spacecraft is inserting itself into Martian orbit. It will provide critical reconnaissance data for a future Martian landing, possibly manned.

It is the first spacecraft designed from the ground up for aerobraking, a rigorous phase of the mission where the orbiter uses the friction of the martian atmosphere to slow down in order to settle into its final orbit around Mars.

It is on a search for evidence that water persisted on the surface of Mars for a long period of time. While other Mars missions have shown that water flowed across the surface in Mars' history, it remains a mystery whether water was ever around long enough to provide a habitat for life.

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter will seek to find out about the history of water on Mars with its science instruments. They will zoom in for extreme close-up photography of the martian surface, analyze minerals, look for subsurface water, trace how much dust and water are distributed in the atmosphere, and monitor daily global weather.

It will also serve as a high-bandwidth communications platform for five other vehicles current at Mars. Its X-band communications array will allow the orbiter to send data back to Earth more than 10 times faster than previous missions and it is testing a new Ka-band that will allow data communications 4 times more.

Of course, space conspiracy nuts will tell you MRO will fail mysteriously. Mars has not been friendly to space missions; some speculate the Martians are deliberately hiding something from us.

Yeah, I am a space geek.


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