Help Shape the Future of Space Exploration

Join The Planetary Society Now Join Now!

Join our eNewsletter for updates & action alerts

   Please leave this field empty
Blogs

Headshot of Emily Lakdawalla

Spacecraft Set to Reach Milestone, Reports Technical Glitches

Posted by Emily Lakdawalla

07-02-2007 11:00 CST

Topics: Planetary Society, Planetary Society Projects, Mars Climate Sounder, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, Mars, weather and climate

NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft this month is set to surpass the record for the most science data returned by any Mars spacecraft. While the mission continues to produce data at record levels, engineers are examining why two instruments are intermittently not performing entirely as planned. All other spacecraft instruments are operating normally and continue to return science data.

Since beginning its primary science phase in November 2006, the orbiter has returned enough data to fill nearly 1,000 CD-ROMs. This ties the record for Mars data sent back between 1997 and 2006 by NASA's Mars Global Surveyor mission.

In late November 2006, the spacecraft team operating the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter noticed a significant increase in noise, such as bad pixels, in one of its 14 camera detector pairs. Another detector that developed the same problem soon after launch has worsened. Images from the spacecraft camera last month revealed the first signs of this problem in five other detectors.

While the current impact on image quality is small, there is concern as to whether the problem will continue to worsen.

In-flight data show that more warming of the camera's electronics before taking an image reduces or eliminates the problem. The imaging team aims to understand the root cause of the worsening over time and to determine the best operational procedures to maximize the long-term science benefits. The camera continues to make observations and is returning excellent images of the Martian surface.

The second instrument concern aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is related to an instrument designed to routinely scan from the surface across the atmosphere above Mars' horizon. The Mars Climate Sounder maps the temperature, ice clouds and dust distributions in the atmosphere on each of nearly 13 orbits every day. In late December, the sounder appeared to skip steps occasionally, so that its field of view was slightly out of position. Following uplink of new scan tables to the instrument, the position errors stopped and the instrument operated nominally.

In mid-January, the position errors reappeared. Although still intermittent, the errors became more frequent, so the instrument has been temporarily stowed while the science team investigates the problem.

The rate of data return is expected to increase over the coming months as the relative motions of Earth and Mars in their orbits around the sun shrink the distance between the planets. By the conclusion of its first science phase in 2008, the mission is expected to have returned more than 30 terabits of science data, enough to fill more than 5,000 CD-ROMs. Observations will be used to evaluate potential landing sites for future missions and to increase our understanding of Mars and how planets change over time.

The mission is managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, Colo., is the prime contractor and built the spacecraft.

###

Guy Webster 818-354-6278
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

Dwayne Brown 202-358-1726
NASA Headquarters, Washington

NEWS RELEASE: 2007-013

 
See other posts from February 2007

 

Or read more blog entries about: Planetary Society, Planetary Society Projects, Mars Climate Sounder, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, Mars, weather and climate

Comments:

Leave a Comment:

You must be logged in to submit a comment. Log in now.
Facebook Twitter Email RSS AddThis

Blog Search

LightSail - Flight by Light

Support LightSail!

In 2016, The Planetary Society’s LightSail program will take the technology a step further.

I want to help!

Featured Images

Philae's landing site in 3D

Hayabusa-2 spacecraft
Curiosity in-situ science targets at Confidence Hills, sols 758-771
The Confidence Hills work area at the edge of Pahrump Hills outcrop, Curiosity sol 777
More Images

Featured Video

View Larger »

Space in Images

Pretty pictures and
awe-inspiring science.

See More

Join the New Millennium Committee

Let’s invent the future together!

Become a Member

Connect With Us

Facebook! Twitter! Google+ and more…
Continue the conversation with our online community!