MEDIA RELATIONS OFFICE JET PROPULSION LABORATORY CALIFORNIA INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION PASADENA, CALIFORNIA 91109. TELEPHONE (818) 354-5011 http://www.jpl.nasa.gov The Mars Climate Orbiter and Mars Polar Lander spacecraft that together make up NASA's Mars Surveyor '98 mission are now midway in their long journey to Mars.
Mars 98 Mission Status Report
May 21, 1999
Mars Climate Orbiter is nearly two-thirds of its way to Mars, having traveled about 413 million kilometers (257 million miles) since its launch on December 11, and has 255 million kilometers (158 million miles) yet to go. Mars Polar Lander is almost at the halfway point of its journey having logged 360 million kilometers (224 million miles) since launch on January 3, with 398 million kilometers (247 million miles) to go.
The two spacecraft are in excellent health and operating essentially under automatic control as they proceed through space under the influence of the Sun's gravitational pull. So far, each spacecraft has followed a course that closely parallel's Earth's orbit around the Sun.
Today, Mars Climate Orbiter is 55 million kilometers (34 million miles) from Earth, and Mars Polar Lander is 39 million kilometers (24 million miles) away, even though they have both traveled hundreds of millions of kilometers. This is typical of interplanetary spacecraft that follow flight paths that spiral slowly toward or away from the Sun, while traversing much larger distances around it. During the second half of their trip, the two spacecraft will appear to accelerate rapidly away from Earth as they spiral outward toward the orbit of Mars.
Here on Earth, the flight team is already hard at work preparing their detailed plans for arrival and conducting extensive testing using simulation facilities that accurately mimic the two spacecraft. The orbiter will arrive at Mars on September 23, while the lander will become the first spacecraft to set down in the mysterious Martian south polar region on December 3.
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