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travisleit01 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-24-04 11:39 PM
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10. 11:35 Update
0435 GMT (11:35 p.m. EST Sat.)
Landing is now 30 minutes away.

The next major event will be separation between the no-longer-needed cruise stage from the descent module containing the Opportunity rover. This jettison is scheduled for 11:44 p.m. EST.

Here is NASA's description of the cruise stage:

The cruise stage provides capabilities needed during the seven-month passage to Mars but not later in the mission, such as a propulsion system for trajectory correction maneuvers. Approximately 2.6 meters (8.5 feet) in diameter and 1.6 meters (5.2 feet) tall, the disc-shaped cruise stage is outfitted with solar panels and antennas on one face, and with fuel tanks and the aeroshell on the other. Around the rim sit thrusters, a star scanner and a Sun sensor.

The propulsion system uses hydrazine propellant stored in two titanium tanks. Since the the entire spacecraft spins at about 2 rotations per minute, fuel in the tanks is pushed outward toward outlets and through fuel lines to two clusters of thrusters. Each cluster has four thrusters pointing in different directions.

The star scanner and Sun sensor help the spacecraft determine its orientation. Since the rover's solar arrays are tucked away inside the aeroshell for the trip, the cruise stage needs its own for electrical energy. The arrays could generate more than 600 watts when the spacecraft was about as far from the Sun as Earth is, and generate about half that much as it nears Mars.

The cruise stage also carries a system for carrying excess heat away from the rover's computer with a pumped freon loop and rim-mounted radiators.

0431 GMT (11:31 p.m. EST Sat.)
Opportunity is currently 3,334 miles from Mars, traveling at 8,817 miles per hour.

Mission Control confirms that the gas generator heaters are active.

0426 GMT (11:26 p.m. EST Sat.)
Meanwhile, the Mars Global Surveyor and Mars Odyssey orbiters are verified in good shape. The spacecraft will be used for communications relay from Opportunity over the course of the evening. MGS will be receiving live information from the rover during descent while Odyssey will fly over the landing site a few hours later to collect data for transmission back to Earth.
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