Originally posted by Ralph_The_Wonder_Llama[/I]
I vote we send some archaeobacteria to Mars to start life for us. If we send enough diverse species to Mars, maybe . . just maybe, with a little luck
and a lota patience, perhaps one of them will survive in the environment. I predict we can have a Man on Mars by 2,000,002,006! So vote Ralph the
Wonder Llama for President in 2008! [Edited by Don W]
Here’s the latest self-serving NASA propaganda! Propagated to anxious readers say taxpayers by CNN. You can tell it is getting near to budget time!
The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) is a latecomer to the red planet. The $450-million MRO probe will become the fourth operational orbiter around
Mars and the sixth overall spacecraft to study the planet simultaneously. NASA’s twin Mars rovers are rolling across the planet’s surface, while
its Mars Odyssey, Mars Global Surveyor and Europe’s Mars Express scan the Martian world from orbit.
The MRO’s mission is a two-year assignment to scan for evidence of past or present water while at the same time conducting a comprehensive survey of
the planet’s surface and atmosphere. After completing its primary missions, MRO will use its large antenna to serve as an interplanetary phone
relay for data and instructions between flight controllers on Earth and future landers and rovers on Mars. The entire mission carries a $720 million
OOPS! THE $450 MILLION HAS NOW JUMPED TO $720 MILLION! IN ONLY ONE PARAGRAPH. WOW!
The NASA probe’s Shallow Subsurface Radar (SHARAD) is planned to ping the planet in 85-millisecond bursts of radar and can penetrate up 3,000 feet
(one kilometer) beneath the surface, the actual penetration depending on the make-up of Mars’ upper crust. In addition to isolating potential water
pockets, the MRO will record the different rock layers of Mars for geologists to study.
MRO’s will also look at Martian weather patterns. Martian winds and dust devils scrubbed the solar arrays of NASA’s Spirit and Opportunity clean
during their mission, allowing them to draw more power than planned for, and to lengthen the projected lifetimes. The MRO’s Mars Color Imager
(MARCI), with its horizon-to-horizon range, is designed to record daily weather maps, while the Mars Climate Sounder will study the structure of the
The MRO carries three cameras and a spectrometer to build a comprehensive picture of the Martian surface. Its HiRISE camera will take a close look at
specified features, while the probe’s Context Camera will record strips of terrain more than 30 kilometers wide (nearly 20 miles). The fish-eyed
MARCI is expected to provide an overall global coverage context and track minute changes in the atmosphere and surface at the same time.
The CRIS spectrometer will hunt for water-related minerals and determine the composition of the Martian surface in areas as small as a house with an
accuracy about 10 times sharper than any other previously placed in Mars orbit. MRO will also demonstrate an optical navigation camera that may be
used for future missions.
The MRO’s ability to beam data home is itself no small feat. The spacecraft’s three-meter antenna is expected to transmit about 34 terabytes of
data per second. How much information is that? It is THREE times the amount sent home by NASA’s Cassini, Deep Space 1, Magellan, Mars Odyssey and
Mars Global Surveyor missions COMBINED.
The electrical power supplying the MRO’s antenna and its extensive instrument package will be furnished by two of the largest solar arrays ever to
fly. Made up of 7,000 solar cells and spanning 220 square feet, the arrays are anticipated to generate about twice as much power two kilowatts at Mars
than the mission requires,
LET’S HOPE ALL OF THESE PARTS WORK WHEN THE MRO GETS THERE.
Another goal of the MRO mission is to aid future selections of sites for Red planet surface probes like the upcoming Mars Science Laboratory and
Phoenix lander. The MRO’s suite of cameras, radar and spectrometers make it a prime instrument in deciding where landers may have the most success
learning about Mars’ watery past or hints that the planet may have once been capable of supporting life.
Scientists consider water a key ingredient for life on Earth, and are eager to find underground caches of it at Mars. Should they be found, such
reservoirs could be key in determining whether the planet could support life today or in the distant past.
MRO’s HiRISE camera, with its ability to resolve objects just one meter across, it is hoped it may allow NASA’s lost Mars Polar Lander to rest in
peace. The lander crashed in December of 1999 and repeated searches have turned up some possible targets, but nothing conclusive. With its sharp eye
and low flight orbit MRO may be able to find the lost probe and put its location to rest.
To land safely, the probe will rely on a tried and true deceleration method called aerobraking, which takes advantage of the drag from a planet’s
atmosphere to shed the immense speed a probe builds up during transit and the, to shape its orbit. But the process is not without risk. A navigation
error sent NASA’s Mars Climate Orbiter plunging into the Martian atmosphere before it could even enter orbit in 1999 and begin aerobraking, though
the Mars Odyssey and Mars Global Surveyor orbiters used the method successfully.
MRO is expected to begin an estimated hundreds of aerobraking dips into Mars’ atmosphere on March 30, ultimately shaving its initial, extremely
elliptical orbit into a near-circular path by November 2006. CAPS MINE FOR EMPHASIS OR COMMENTARY.