Friday, March 10, 2006

MRO-Orbit Successful!

Yah! So, the MRO is now orbiting Mars successfully! Perhaps one of the greatest moments of my life! So, let me tell you about the flow of the day.

It all started for me at about 1:00 today, or, well, at least, todays story started. I was at the University of Arizona's Luner and Planetary Labratory (LPL), watching with the team of the HiRISE camera the orbit of a martian spacecraft. It was very exciting. We had a wait of an hour and a half to hear if the craft had indeed started it's burn. So, the HiRISE staff started to explain the many features of the craft, it was quite neat.

Well, we had the opportunity to ask several questions. I did so, and it was quite neat to get alot of results, to find out a bit more about what was happening, about the MRO, etc. I had alot riding on the successful orbit of this camera, as I will shortly explain.

So, then, we had confirmation that the first burn started. The whole room started to become tense, there was an era of excitement, unlike anything I have felt before, it seemed. It was fun, a kid right in front of me (I was in the 3rd row by this point in time, the first 2 rows were for the HiROC, or HiRise Operations Control), which was showing one of those cool little charts that they have in NASA, it was visibly showing the change in velocity that the spacecraft was having. It showed several mark points, and it was right on the money!

So then, we soon reached Earth Blackout. What that means simply is that the orbiter went behind Mars. We had a half hour wait, to see what would happen.

So, then, the big moment, would the spacecraft survive. Anxiously we awaited, and then it came, the beatiful sound of "We have one-way contact!" The whole room exploded in excitement! A Mars mission had survived, by this point in time, there had been no known missions to have failed. Still, we anxiously awaited for that confirmation that the spacecraft had indeed orbited.

And then it came, we have confirmed Mars orbit! The room again exploded in excitement! The Mars spacecraft had orbited!

So, why does this all mean so much to me? You see, I will now be working as a programmer for the HiRISE camera. It was conditional upon the succesful orbit of the camera, so I guess I have a new job! It will surely be an exciting time!

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