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Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter





Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter
Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter diagram
1. 3m High-gain antenna; 2. High-resolution Imaging Science Experiment; 3. Electra UHF communications relay; 4. Mars Climate Sounder; 5. Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars; 6. Orbit insertion thrusters; 7. Shallow subsurface radar; 8. Thrusters; 9. Optical Navigation camera; 10. Low-gain antennae
A NASA space probe, launched on August 12, 2005, that will make high-resolution measurements of the surface of Mars from orbit, including images with resolution better than one meter. The primary objectives of the mission will be to look for evidence of past or present water and to identify landing sites for future missions. The orbiter will also be used as a telecommunications link for future missions.

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) is the biggest spacecraft to be sent to Mars, carrying some of the most sophisticated instruments ever. The spacecraft went into an elliptical parking orbit around the Red Planet on March 11, 2006. It will study the planet's composition and structure and serve as a powerful communications relay for future missions to the surface.

One of its scientific objectives is to explore whether Mars could once have supported microbial life. Its cameras and spectrometers will search the surface for features related to water, without which life is not thought able to survive. Meanwhile, a radar sounder will look for liquid water reservoirs that may exist beneath the surface of Mars.

MRO joined two US orbiters – Mars Global Surveyor (now defunct) and Mars Odyssey – and one European orbiter, Mars Express, at the fourth planet.

NASA is planning two further Mars missions this decade: the Phoenix module, set for launch in 2007, and Mars Science Laboratory in 2009.





Related entry

   • Mars, unmanned spacecraft


Related category

   • SATELLITES AND SPACE PROBES