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December 10, 2003 NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter passes above a portion of the planet called Nilosyrtis Mensae in this artist's concept illustration. NASA plans to launch this multipurpose spacecraft in August 2005 to advance our understanding of Mars through detailed observation, to examine potential landing sites for future surface missions and to provide a high-data-rate communications relay for those missions. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, manages the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Project for the NASA Office of Space Science, Washington. JPL's main industrial partner in the project, Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, Colo., is building the spacecraft.
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