Sunday, October 19, 2014

NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter safely watches Comet Siding Spring FlyBy

NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which has sent home more data about Mars than all other missions combined, is also now providing data about a comet that buzzed The Red Planet today (Oct. 19).

The orbiter continues operating in good health after sheltering behind Mars during the half hour when high-velocity dust particles from comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring had the most chance of reaching the paths of Mars orbiters.

The Comet Siding Spring C/2013 A1 is indicated on this image as it passes Mars, seen here shining brightly on the bottom left.

Credit: Slooh

maintained radio communications with Earth throughout the comet's closest approach, at 11:27 a.m. PDT (2:27 p.m. EDT), and the peak dust-risk period centered about 100 minutes later.

"The spacecraft performed flawlessly throughout the comet flyby," said Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Project Manager Dan Johnston of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California. "It maneuvered for the planned observations of the comet and emerged unscathed."

Following the critical period of dust flux, the orbiter is communicating at 1.5 megabits per second with NASA's Deep Space Network.

It remained on Side A of its two redundant computers, and all subsystems are working as expected.

The remainder of the NASA Mars orbiters, Mars Express and ISRO's MOM, appear to be in good health and unaffected by the comet flyby.

An artist impression of the passing of Comet Siding Spring as seen by Curiosity Rover on Mars.

Credit: SLOOH

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