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Mars Express adjusts orbit around planet
Posted: Wed, Dec 31, 2003, 11:04 AM ET (1604 GMT)
Mars Express illustration (ESA) ESA's Mars Express spacecraft maneuvered into a polar orbit around the Red Planet on Tuesday, bringing the spacecraft closer to beginning scientific work as well as searching for the Beagle 2 lander. The spacecraft fired its onboard thruster for four minutes at 3 am EST (0800 GMT) Tuesday, while the spacecraft was 188,000 km from Mars. The maneuver shifted the spacecraft from an equatorial to a polar orbit; another maneuver on January 4 will lower the orbit. The new orbit will put the spacecraft in position to begin scientific observations of the planet starting in the latter half of January. The maneuver will also allow the spacecraft to attempt to communicate with the Beagle 2 lander, which has been silent since its landing nearly one week ago. Mars Express will be able to begin communications attempts on January 4, with a flyby directly over the landing site at an altitude of just 315 km scheduled for January 7.
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