NASA to extend the life of its Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) till the next decade

NASA has decided to extend it’s already successfully Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) mission till the next decade. As per the latest reports, the US space agency is trying to push the limits of MRO a little more and wants to keep MRO operational till the next decade. For the longevity of the MRO, NASA has decided to fully utilize the star tracker and at the time same time, it wants to use the aging gyroscopes as less as possible. That means NASA is planning to shift the MRO into star tracking mode instead of using the onboard gyroscope-based navigation that uses more power.

MRO Project Manager Dan Johnston of Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory said, We know we’re a critical element for the Mars Programme to support other missions for the long haul, so we’re finding ways to extend the spacecraft’s life. He further added that in flight operations, they mostly put emphasis on minimizing risk to the spacecraft while carrying out an ambitious scientific and programmatic plan. Michael Meyer, lead scientist of NASA’s Mars Exploration Program at NASA’s Washington headquarters said, “We are counting on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter remaining in service for many more years. Meyer informed, “It’s not just the communications relay that MRO provides, as important as that is. It’s also the science-instrument observations. Those help us understand potential landing sites before they are visited, and interpret how the findings on the surface relate to the planet as a whole.”

On August 12, 2005, NASA launched its Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and the spacecraft made its entry into the Martian orbit in March 2006. The main aim of MRO was to conduct reconnaissance and exploration of the Red Planet from orbit. MRO was equipped with scientific instruments like spectrometers, radar, and powerful cameras so that it could study and analyze the landforms, stratigraphy, minerals, and ice of Mars.

The 2-year MRO mission proved to be a very successful one for NASA as the spacecraft collected many vital information about Mars and also managed to snap some spectacular images of the Red Planet. NASA kept on extending the MRO mission and the spacecraft that it has managed to work more than double its planned mission life. MRO team figured out that the spacecraft’s gyroscopes are aging and that is why it decided to switch to all stellar navigation. Recently NASA scientists did a software update of MRO to enable it navigate using a star tracker.

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