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MRO approaches Mars
Posted: Thu, Mar 9, 2006, 1:43 PM ET (1843 GMT)
Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter illustration (NASA/JPL) NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) spacecraft is on track to enter orbit around the planet on Friday, project officials said Wednesday. MRO will fire its main thrusters Friday afternoon to slow the spacecraft down as it approaches the planet, allowing it to enter an elliptical orbit around the planer rather than swing by. MRO will later use a series of aerobraking passes to move into a low circular orbit. Project officials said that they are in "great shape to succeed", but warn that two of the last four Mars orbiters — NASA's Mars Climate Orbiter and Japan's Nozomi spacecraft — failed to make orbit. MRO carries six instruments, including the most powerful camera ever flown to Mars and a radar that will probe for water below the planet's surface. MRO will also serve as a communications relay for future Mars missions, including the Phoenix lander and Mars Science Laboratory rover.
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