A good health check for Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter

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Link here. The article outlines in good detail the spacecraft’s present condition, which is excellent despite being in space since 2005, as well as outlining the measures being taken to keep it operational into the 2020s.

This item is probably the biggest cause for concern:

For example, some HiRISE images taken in 2017 and early 2018 show slight blurring not seen earlier in the mission. The cause is under investigation. The percentage of full-resolution images with blurring peaked at 70 percent last October, at about the time when Mars was at the point in its orbit farthest from the Sun. The percentage has since declined to less than 20 percent. Even before the first blurred images were seen, observations with HiRISE commonly used a technique that covers more ground area at half the resolution. This still provides higher resolution than any other camera orbiting Mars — about 2 feet (60 centimeters) per pixel — and little blurring has appeared in the resulting images.

HiRISE is the spacecraft’s primary instrument, and its most valuable. If it goes, we will lose our best tool right now for looking in detail at the Martian surface.


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