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Wednesday, September 27 2023 @ 02:53 pm EDT

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Begins Historic Mission

Lunar & PlanetaryWith its very first pair of images, NASA's newest mission to the Red Planet has made history and prepares for a mission to set new standards for robotic planetary exploration. The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) has used its ultra-high resolution camera to "see" the Mars Rover "Opportunity" on the surface from an altitude of about 180 miles, and its just gonna keep gettin' better and better from here on!
Almost unbelieveably, our newest imaging camera aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has imaged the golfcart-sized rover Opportunity from its operational orbital altitude of 180 miles above the surface of Mars. Everything about this latest mission to Mars is historical in how much improvement has been made from every mission that came before. Its a new day on the Red Planet! Image courtesy NASA/JPL/UA

If you haven't been actively watching and reading about the MRO mission to Mars, much of what we're about to start hearing and seeing about this mission will seem almost fantastic to the masses. If you have been watching and waiting, you're anticipation is extreme. Never before have any cameras on an orbiting spacecraft seen so clearly and sharply. Objects as small as a shoe are capable of being seen from this craft's operating altitude of approximately 180 miles above the planet surface. This week, NASA has taken and released one of the most famous pictures of recent memory. In order to show off a bit of what MRO is capable of, and to really test out just how powerful their newest "toy" is, operators have imaged the Mars Rover Opportunity at its winter station on the slopes of Victoria Crater, complete with wheel tracks and the shadow of the camera mast in clear detail!

Above-left is the entire picture and by clicking here for the close-up you can go directly to the 1.2 Mb file of this historic image.

The OTHER historic image from Mars Recon this week. Its said that if a person were standing in the field of this image, we'd have NO TROUBLE seeing a human figure there. Image courtesy NASA/JPL/UA

To the right is the second of this week's extraordinary images from NASA's newest Mars Orbiter.

Mars Recon arrived at Mars in March of this year, after its launch on August 12, 2005. It spent the first 6 full months repeatedly dipping into the upper levels of Mars tenuous atmosphere in a manuveur known as aerobraking which gradually slowed its speed while also circularizing the orbit at the same time. It is only now beginning it's 2-year science mission, and if I had $100 to bet, I'd put it all on seeing a 4-year MINIMUM science mission before NASA even considers seriously cutting funding for Mars Recon.

I refer you now to my original story on this mission for the full details on just how impressive this mission will eventually be. This is going to be one amazing mission!

Click read more for some additional images and captions on this mission.

TEACHERS TEACHERS TEACHERS! CLICK right for a link to LOTS of Education materials and activities.

SHARAD- The Mars Recon SHAllow RADar experiment on this mission will look for evidence of water below the surface of Mars. Courtesy NASA

Click here for Mars videos about this and other Mars Exploration Program missions. NOTICE! These are large files!

In keeping with the "Follow the Water" theme of NASA's current strategy of looking for possible signs of past or present life on Mars, click here for press release on several scientific instruments aboard Mars Recon specifically designed to do exactly that. Courtesy NASA
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