Permanent Human Settlement of the Earth, Space and Ocean Frontiers

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

MRO Marsship Nearing Red Planet

At exactly 4:25 PM EST on Friday, March 10th, a US built Marsship will fire its retrorockets for 27 nail biting minutes as it slows down from its nearly seven month, sixty five million mile trek through interplanetary space.

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is relatively huge as Mars spacecraft go – some 22 feet high with a solar panel span of twice that – some 44 feet. It is the largest Mars craft ever flown and flies with the largest camera ever pointed at the Red planet. Its ten year mission is to take a very close look down at the number one future target in the solar system for human footprints.

The MRO will slow down and be lulled into a very highly elliptical orbit around Mars, then for six months will use many close encounters with the Martian upper atmosphere to finally settle down into a circular orbit. It is a delicate process called aerobraking – one that takes a bit of time but saves much fuel that the spacecraft can use to maintain its ever vigilant, nonstop watch on Mars for 10 years. That’s a good reason to use aerobraking instead of rocket fuel. Once this aerobraking has been accomplished this fall, its real mission will begin.

The MRO is an impressive bird. The last orbital spacecraft could see an object no smaller than the size of a school bus. But the MRO can hone in on a dinner table sitting anywhere on the surface. Added to that feat is its incredible data stream capability aimed back at earth. MRO will transmit as much data as three times all the previous Mars missions combined! It will also act at the orbital communications link for the upcoming US landers slated for the next decade of U.S. exploration activities.

In my book, ABYSS OF ELYSIUM, I wrote about such satellites and how they enabled humans to explore Mars. The high-fliers had many roles. They warned them of approaching sandstorms while acting as weather satellites. But they also simultaneously functioned as communication links between Mars colonies and, in addition to those roles, they acted as orbital planetary resource surveyors, just like MRO!

If the MRO has a prime mission objective, it is to scout for probable underground water sights using its special radar sounder that can actually peer beneath the drifting sands of Mars. To check the MROs mission out in detail with text, pictures and video, click here for NASA’s MRO Mission Home Page - or - here for a link to all the NASA Mars Mission's home page.