Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

December 24, 1998

Mars Climate Orbiter Launches
Credit: Courtesy NASA

Explanation: Looking down from atop a Delta II rocket blasting skyward, solid fuel boosters fall away (left) and the Earth's limb slides into view. These pictures from the launch of the Mars Climate Orbiter were taken as it climbed away from Cape Canaveral Air Station Space Launch Complex 17 on December 11. This spacecraft won't arrive at Mars in time for Christmas though, as its cruise to the red planet will require about 9 1/2 Earth months to complete. Once it does get there it will use aerobraking to help establish a polar science mapping orbit for studying the martian atmosphere. The orbiter is also scheduled to act as a communications relay for the soon to be launched Mars Polar Lander.

Tomorrow's picture: Ornamental Nebulae

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Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (USRA)
NASA Technical Rep.: Jay Norris. Specific rights apply.
A service of: LHEA at NASA/ GSFC
&: Michigan Tech. U.