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JPL podcast: Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter in the Groove Around the  Red  Planet

Mar. 10, 2006
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Narrator: In the groove around the red planetÂ….

I'm Jane Platt and you're listening to a podcast from JPL -- NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena , Calif.

Natural sound. Mission control room cheering.

Narrator: That was a bunch of truly happy campers in mission control at JPL Friday afternoon, March 10 th , as they received confirmation that Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter had successfully entered into orbit around the planet of Mars.

Let's find out a little bit more. We're joined now by Rob Lock, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter lead mission planner here at JPL. Rob, thanks for joining us, and I'm sure your adrenaline is still running fast.

Lock: Oh, yes it is, we've had a great day. There were some exciting moments, but literally nothing has gone wrong. We've had an excellent day. Everything went as it should, things happened when they were supposed to happen, the trajectory came out the way it was supposed to, all the times happened. We're just thrilled. We're happy to be at Mars.

Narrator: And you did have a nervous half hour when the spacecraft went behind Mars and you couldn't talk to it.

Lock: Oh, yes, anytime in the middle of important things like this when you have to lose contact with your spacecraft, it's always nerve-wracking waiting for it to come back. But come back it did. It came back right on time. We're right on the orbit we were supposed to be on. The spacecraft worked perfectly, so we are thrilled.

Narrator: I noticed during that time and anybody who was watching the coverage on NASA TV could see that you were, everybody was kind of pacing around and sort of joking nervously.

Lock: Oh yeh that's pretty typical, particularly with our bunch. We have a very active project, particularly our project manager. He paces on a good day, so he paced around a lot, people were joking, but they were in high spirits. Someone had found a panic button that was wired up to a sound bite that said "that was easy." And all they had to do was push the button when it was over and it said "that was easy," and everybody cracked up. So we have a happy crew, everybody's in good spirits today.

Narrator: Where's the spacecraft now? I know you're still kind of tweaking it, talking to it, getting information, but to the best of your knowledge, where is it and what is doing?

Lock: To the best of our knowledge, I just heard from our project scientist that were are just about exactly in the orbit that we want to be in. The orbit period we were aiming for was just a little bit over 35 hours. That was our predict yesterday. And we are at thirty-five-and-a-half-hour orbit period. The periapsis or the closest to the planet we come in an orbit, yesterday we were predicting it would be at 426 kilometers, that's about 260 miles or so, and it's at 423 kilometers, that will be tomorrow night when we come back around the first time. And that is just awesomely good shooting, That's better than Robin Hood.

Narrator: Thank you so much, Rob, for joining us today.

Lock: You're welcome. It's been an enjoyable experience.

Narrator: And congratulations to you and the whole team.

Lock: Thank you so much.

Narrator: More information on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is online at or .

Thanks for joining us today for this podcast from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

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