The Mariner 9 spacecraft will complete its 87th day of travel today having covered 140,000,000 miles on its 247 million mile journey to Mars since launch on May 30.
The 2200 pound spacecraft is 20,000,000 miles from Earth as it slowly draws away from Earth towards the orbit of Mars. It is traveling on a curving path around the Sun at 61,000 miles per hour relative to the Sun.
The previous abnormal high rate of usage of the nitrogen gas in the attitude control subsystem has stabilized to a normal 4 to 6 milli-pounds per day. There is sufficient gas to allow orbital operations of one year if an extended mission, beyond the basic 90 day mission, is funded.
On November 13th the flight path of Mariner 9 will intersect the orbital path of Mars and the firing of a 300 pound thrust retro engine will insert Mariner into a Mars orbit.
Basic objective of the mission is 90 days in orbit and mapping of about 70% of the Martian surface with two television cameras. Other experiments will record atmospheric and surface data.
News Media Contact818-354-5011