The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is performing the final series of maneuvers needed to enter orbit around Mars. I am listening to the progress via NASA TV, and I'll post updates in this entry as I hear them.
(Times are Pacific)
- 2:42 p.m.: With MRO safely circling (well, ellipticalling) Mars, I'll sign off for now. My congrats to all the engineers and scientists at NASA and its contractors who made this tremendous achievement possible!
- 2:25 p.m.: MRO is in orbit around Mars!
- 2:18 p.m.: YEEHAW! It looks like the burn was perfect! Many people are saying "It's right on the money"!
- 2:17 p.m.: Well, that was fast. They have reacquired the signal!
- 2:16 p.m.: MRO now has a clear line of sight to Earth, but it may take a few minutes to reacquire the signal. The Doppler should tell engineers if the spacecraft slowed by the right amount.
- 2:03 p.m.: Still behind the planet, MRO is slewing once again to point its instruments at Earth, so that when it pops back out from behind Mars it can talk to us.
- 1:52 p.m.: The burn should now be complete. We won't know until the signal is regained at 2:16.
- 1:46 p.m. LOS! Loss of signal, that is. Now we wait, and bite our nails.
- 1:45 p.m.: MRO has lost 1400 mph, about 1/2 the total needed.
- 1:38 p.m.: The burn continues. At 1:46, MRO will go behind the planet as seen from Earth, and we'll lose contact with it. The burn will end at 1:51, while MRO is still on the other side of Mars. At 2:16 MRO is scheduled to come out of "eclipse". If this happens on time, then that's a strong indication that the burn ran normally, and we have a new spacecraft orbiting Mars.
- 1:32 p.m.: The spacecraft has slowed by 295 mph, and everything still looks good.
- 1:26 p.m.: 1300 miles from Mars, burn still ongoing.
- 1:24 p.m.: The burn has started!
- 1:19 p.m.: The slew completed, and MRO is now oriented correctly for the burn!
- 1:10 p.m.: MRO is turning itself (called slewing) to the "burn attitude", the proper spacecraft orientation so that the rocket firing will put it in the correct orbit. The slew will take a few minutes, and is expected to complete at 1:19.
- 1:05 p.m.: The signal from MRO has been reacquired.
- 1:04 p.m.: MRO is switching to its low-gain antenna, so the signal has been lost for a few minutes while that happens.
- 12:53 p.m.: the spacecraft has undergone a pressurization process that will allow it to make the orbital insertion burn, which is scheduled for 1:24. When that happened, there was a lot of cheering at Mission Control! Had the pressurization no happened, it would have gotten very quiet there.