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This artists concept shows MRO's path in smaller and smaller yellow ovals around Mars.
Full Res JPG (348 kB)

Next Phase: Aerobraking

After a nearly flawless entry into martian orbit, what is next for Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter? Six months of precise aerobraking will position the spacecraft for optimal science return.

Aerobraking is a process in which engineers utilize the martian atmosphere to slow their craft and ease it into a circular orbit. Initially, the spacecraft entered into a 35-hour orbit that, if drawn, would appear oval shaped. Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter will dip into Mars' atmosphere during its orbital passes and the craft's large solar panels and high-gain antenna will create resistance, slowing the vehicle and moving it into a more circular orbit. At aerobraking's end, the spacecraft's orbit will be approximately two hours.

Coming Soon: Aerobraking Video and Feature Story

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

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