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Martian doings

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9:00am, September 20, 2006

Two Mars vehicles—an orbiting spacecraft and a robot on the planet's surface—have reached new milestones in their missions. Seven months after its arrival, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, NASA's most recent envoy to that planet, has finished reshaping its orbit into the nearly circular, low-altitude path that will give it a close view of the Red Planet. During the maneuvers, flight engineers sent the craft sailing through the upper layers of Mars' atmosphere 426 times, using friction to gradually decrease Orbiter's highest altitude from 45,000 kilometers to 486 km.

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