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Mars Climate Orbiter Mission Status

December 21, 1998

Mars Climate Orbiter successfully completed its first trajectory correction maneuver at 1:33 p.m. Pacific Standard Time today to fine-tune its flight path. This maneuver removed a bias intentionally set by the vehicle that was designed to prevent the third stage of the Delta II launch vehicle from tagging along and colliding with Mars. It also removed a small launch injection error, putting the orbiter on course for its capture into orbit around Mars on September 23, 1999.

The spacecraft began the turn to align its thrusters to the desired direction at 1:19 p.m. PST, fired the thrusters for 2.8 minutes, then turned back to its original orientation so that its solar panels would continue to generate electrical power. The maneuver changed the spacecraft's velocity by just 19.1 meters per second (42.7 miles per hour). This very slight change in flight course and velocity indicated the high degree of accuracy achieved during launch on December 11.

Now on its way to Mars, the orbiter is in excellent health. An onboard software program recently uplinked to the spacecraft is regulating its thermal control and power requirements, as well as monitoring other subsystems. A health check of the Mars Color Imager and opening of the cooler door on the Pressure Modulator Infrared Radiometer are planned for Wednesday, December 23.

Mars Climate Orbiter is currently about 2.87 million kilometers (1.75 million miles) from Earth, traveling at a velocity of about 11,950 kilometers per hour (7,290 miles per hour) relative to Earth.

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