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Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter
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MISSION

Overview

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Mission

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Mission 

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter arrived at the Red Planet in 2006, looking for clues about where watery martian habitats may lie.
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Biggest Orbiter at Mars

Biggest Orbiter at Mars 

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is much larger and more capable than recent orbiters.
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Biggest Orbiter at Mars

Biggest Orbiter at Mars 

The orbiter is almost as massive as Viking, the heaviest spacecraft ever sent to Mars.
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Equipped With Many Tools

Equipped With Many Tools 

It is equipped with all kinds of tools to study Mars – in the atmosphere, on the surface and underground. These tools help us understand better the history of Martian water.
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Answering the "Where is the water?" Question

Answering the "Where is the water?" Question 

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has answered the "Where is the water?" question more completely than ever before with several instruments.
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Orbiter Tools--Shallow Radar

Orbiter Tools--Shallow Radar 

The shallow radar penetrates the ground to search for water ice at depths greater than three feet.
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Obiter Tools: Spectrometer

Obiter Tools: Spectrometer 

The spectrometer analyzes the surface, creating a color map of mineral deposits that indicates where water recently lay.
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Orbiter Tools: Weather Camera

Orbiter Tools: Weather Camera 

The weather camera monitors cloud cover and dust storm activity.
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Orbiter Tools: Climate Sounder

Orbiter Tools: Climate Sounder 

The Climate Sounder profiles the atmosphere, revealing variations in temperature, dust and water vapor.
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Orbiter Tools: Context Camera

Orbiter Tools: Context Camera 

The Context Camera provides wide area views to give context to high-resolution data from other instruments.
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Orbiter Tools: High-Resolution Camera

Orbiter Tools: High-Resolution Camera 

The High-Resolution Camera zooms in on landforms and debris in areas where water once flowed.
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The "People's Camera"

The "People's Camera" 

The HiRISE camera is the largest, highest resolution camera ever sent to Mars. You can get involved in the mission by suggesting areas to target with HiRISE, the "People’s Camera."
http://marsoweb.nas.nasa.gov/hirise
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Gathering Information Over Time

Gathering Information Over Time 

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has gathered data on three different periods in Martian history, over large areas of the planet.
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Mapping Polar Ice Caps

Mapping Polar Ice Caps 

It found that more recently, water has cycled as a gas between the polar ice caps and lower latitude ice and snow.
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Orbiter Finds Evidence for Salty Water

Orbiter Finds Evidence for Salty Water 

The hi-resolution camera found several places that have seasonal flows, best explained by salty water.
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More Water Evidence

More Water Evidence 

Other discoveries include a thick layer of carbon dioxide buried in the ice cap at the south pole.
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NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter blasted off from Cape Canaveral in 2005, on a search for evidence that water persisted on the surface of Mars for a long period of time. While other Mars missions have shown that water flowed across the surface in Mars' history, it remains a mystery whether water was ever around long enough to provide a habitat for life.

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is studying the history of water on Mars
After a seven-month cruise to Mars and six months of aerobraking to reach its science orbit, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter began seeking out the history of water on Mars with its science instruments. The instruments zoom in for extreme close-up photography of the martian surface, analyze minerals, look for subsurface water, trace how much dust and water are distributed in the atmosphere, and monitor daily global weather.

These studies are identifying deposits of minerals that may have formed in water over long periods of time, looking for evidence of shorelines of ancient seas and lakes, and analyzing deposits placed in layers over time by flowing water. The mission is examining whether underground martian ice discovered by the Mars Odyssey orbiter is the top layer of a deep ice deposit or a shallow layer in equilibrium with the atmosphere and its seasonal cycle of water vapor.

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is looking at small-scale features
In its survey of the red planet, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is increasing tenfold the number of spots surveyed close-up. One of the orbiter's cameras is the largest ever flown on a planetary mission. Though previous cameras on other Mars orbiters could identify objects no smaller than a school bus, this camera can spot something as small as a dinner table. That capability has allowed the orbiter to identify obstacles such as large rocks that could jeopardize the safety of landers and rovers, including the Phoenix mission and Mars Science Laboratory mission. Its imaging spectrometer looks at small-scale areas about five times smaller than a football field, a scale perfect for identifying any hot springs or other small water features.

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is a powerful communications and navigation link
The orbiter's telecommunications systems provide a crucial service for future spacecraft, serving as the first link in a communications bridge back to Earth, an "interplanetary Internet" that can be used by numerous international spacecraft in coming years. Testing the use of a radio frequency called Ka-band, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has demonstrated the potential for greater performance in communications using significantly less power.

The orbiter also carries an experimental navigation camera. Similar cameras on orbiters of the future will serve as high-precision interplanetary "eyes" to guide incoming landers to precise landings on Mars, opening up exciting but otherwise dangerous areas of the planet to exploration.

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter mission met all its science goals in a two-year primary science phase. Two extensions, the latest beginning in 2010, have added to the bounty of science returns.

For details on all mission stages, see the Mission Timeline.

Helpful Mission Overview Resources

MRO Fact Sheets

MRO Press Kits

Launch: August 12, 2005

Launch Location: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida

Arrival: March 10, 2006

Weight: 2,180 kilograms (4,806 pounds) at launch, including fuel

Electrical Power: Solar panels

Rocket: Atlas V

Mission Duration: 2006 - Ongoing



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