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Mars Recon Orbiter
Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Mission to Mars

Mission Type: Orbiter
Launch Vehicle: Atlas V-401 (two-stage Atlas booster with Centaur upper stage)
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, USA
NASA Center: Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Spacecraft Mass: 2,180 kg (4,806 pounds) total at launch, consisting of 139 kg (306 pounds) science payload, 892 kg (1,967 pounds) other dry weight, plus 1,149 kg (2,533 pounds) of propellant and pressurant
Spacecraft Instruments:
1) Hyper-spectral imaging spectrometer
2) Very-high-resolution camera
3) Context camera
4) Color camera
5) Climate sounder
6) Shallow subsurface radar
Spacecraft Dimensions: Height 6.5 m (21 feet) with a 3-m-diameter (10-foot) dish antenna; width 13.6 m (45 feet) with a pair of 5.35- by 2.53-m (17.56- by 8.30-foot) solar panels
Spacecraft Power: Solar panels and nickel-hydrogen batteries
Total Cost: Primary mission only: About $720 million total, consisting approximately of $450 million spacecraft development and science instruments; $90 million launch; $180 million mission operations, science processing and relay support for 5.5 years
Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Arrival Press Kit, March 2006

NASA Mars Program MRO Newsroom,

NASA: Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter,

CRISM: Following Water to Understand Mars' Past and Present,

NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), launched 12 August 2005, is on a search for evidence that water persisted on the surface of Mars for a long period of time.

After a seven-month cruise to Mars and six months of aerobraking, MRO reached its science orbit. MRO is designed to track changes in the water and dust in Mars' atmosphere, look for more evidence of ancient seas and hot springs and peer into past Martian climate changes by studying surface minerals and layering. The orbiter carries a powerful camera capable of taking sharp images of surface features the size of a beach ball -- previous cameras on other Mars orbiters could only identify objects no smaller than a school bus. The orbiter also serves as a data relay station for other Mars missions.

The "follow the water" theme has echoed throughout NASA's Mars Exploration Program since the year 2000. Missions following this theme, including MRO, have made new and important findings about Mars that are changing our picture of how the planet works. Among MRO's mission's major findings is that the action of water on and near the surface of Mars occurred for hundreds of millions of years. This activity was at least regional and possibly global in extent, though possibly intermittent. The spacecraft has also observed signatures of a variety of watery environments, some acidic, some alkaline, which increase the possibility that there are places on Mars that could reveal evidence of past life, if it ever existed. MRO also broke data transmission records, surpassing all other previous Mars missions.

Key Dates
12 Aug 2005:  Launch
Mar 2006 - Jul 2008:  Science Mission
10 Mar 2006:  Mars Orbit Insertion
Status: Extended Mission in Progress
Fast Facts
Mars Recon Orbiter Facts MRO's cameras not only capture Mars in high-definition; they also catch other Mars spacecraft in action. The image on the right is Phoenix descending to its landing site.

As of March 2010, MRO has sent back 100 terabits of data -- more than three times the amount of data from all other deep-space missions combined -- not just the ones to Mars, but every mission that has flown past the orbit of Earth's moon.

MRO traveled about 500 million km (310 million miles) to get to Mars.
Science & Technology Features
People Spotlight
Steve Squyres Steve Squyres
Steve is best known as principal Investigator for the Mars Exploration Rovers, but he's contributed to many of the greatest robotic missions. Read More...
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Last Updated: 9 Jul 2012