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How to Correct a Trajectory
This artist's animation shows NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander adjusting its course to Mars, an event called a trajectory correction maneuver.
Normally, as Phoenix cruises toward Mars, it maintains an orientation for its solar panels to catch sunlight and its antenna to face Earth.
For maneuvers to adjust the flight path, the entire spacecraft must be pivoted to get the trajectory-correction thrusters pointed in the direction that navigators have calculated for the maneuver. After the thrusters fire for the prescribed length of time, the spacecraft swivels back to its previous orientation.
This movie has been sped up. A trajectory correction maneuver actually takes much longer.
The Phoenix Mission is led by the University of Arizona, Tucson, on behalf of NASA. Project management of the mission is by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. Spacecraft development is by Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver.
Photojournal Note: As planned, the Phoenix lander, which landed May 25, 2008 23:53 UTC, ended communications in November 2008, about six months after landing, when its solar panels ceased operating in the dark Martian winter.