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August 18, 1999

Mars Climate Orbiter (MCO)

The MCO spacecraft continues operating nominally in late cruise. Today the flight team conducted its second Operational Readiness Test (ORT) in preparation for Mars arrival next month, the first of two exercises simulating the aerobraking phase of the mission. Following Mars Orbit Insertion, the orbiter will be maneuvered so that its flight path passes through the upper reaches of the Martian atmosphere. Over the course of about 45 days (September 25 through November 9), repeated passes through the atmosphere will cause MCO's orbit to get shorter and lower in altitude, becoming nearing circular. This process, pioneered by the Magellan mission to Venus in 1993 and used successfully by Mars Global Surveyor during 1997-1999, has been dubbed aerobraking. The Mars '98 flight team will cobnduct its second aerobraking ORT next week, then prepare for a final ORT rehearsing Mars Orbit Insertion itself.


Mars Polar Lander (MPL)

Mars Polar Lander continues to perform well, now in late cruise. Entry/Descent/Landing and surface mission stress testing continues in the MPL simulator facility, while the rest of the flight team maintains its present focus on test and training for the orbiter's arrival at Mars.

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