Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) is a multipurpose spacecraft designed to conduct reconnaissance andexploration of Mars from orbit. It was launched August 12, 2005, and attained Martian orbit on March 10, 2006. In November 2006, after five months of aerobraking, it entered its final science orbit and began its primary science phase.
Operator: NASA, Jet Propulsion Laboratory
As MRO entered orbit it joined five other active spacecraft which were either in orbit or on the planet surface: Mars Global Surveyor, Mars Express, Mars Odyssey, and two Mars Exploration Rovers; at the time a record for the most operational spacecraft in the immediate vicinity of Mars.
MRO contains a host of scientific instruments such as cameras, spectrometers, and radar, which are used to analyze the landforms, stratigraphy, minerals, and ice of Mars. It paves the way for future spacecraft by monitoring Mars’ daily weather and surface conditions, studying potential landing sites, and hosting a new telecommunications system. MRO’s telecommunications system can transfer more data back to Earth than all previous interplanetary missions combined, and MRO serves as a highly capable relay satellite for future missions.
- HiRISE – camera
- CTX – camera
- MARCI – camera
- CRISM – spectrometer
- SHARAD – radar
In addition to its imaging equipment, MRO carries a variety of engineering instruments. The Gravity Field Investigation Package measures variations in the Martian gravitational field through variations in the spacecraft’s velocity. Velocity changes are detected by measuring doppler shifts in MRO’s radio signals received on Earth. The package also includes sensitive onboard accelerometers used to deduce the in situ atmospheric density of Mars during aerobraking.
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sources: NASA, JPL, Wikipedia