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Aerobraking is a spaceflight technique wherein an orbiting spacecraft brushes against the top of a planetary atmosphere. The friction of the atmosphere against the surface of the spacecraft slows down and lowers the craft's orbital altitude. The solar panels are used to provide the maximum drag in a symmetrical position that allows some control as the spacecraft passes through the atmosphere.Instead of using onboard jets and propellant to adjust a spacecraft's orbit, aerobraking uses the atmosphere as both a brake and a steering wheel. The technique, however, shares more elements with sailing than with driving: successful aerobraking depends upon precise navigation, knowledge of weather and a solid understanding of the forces the craft can withstand. [ MORE ]
The Aerobraking Wizard: See real-time views of where Odyssey is in its aerobraking orbits around Mars, its orbital speed, and many more details. [no longer available].
See the aerobraking video, which describes how navigation team members slow the spacecraft down and bring Odyssey into its circular, science mapping orbit.
Phase after Aerobraking: Science Operations