Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter

Courtesy of NASA

One question that Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter will try to answer is whether the water that flows on Mars has ever stayed long enough to support life. MRO will explore science and communication/navigation goals from orbit. While orbiting, its navigation equipment will assist other missions that plan to land on the Martian surface and its onboard scientific instruments will study Mars’ geologic history, landforms, minerals, and ice. When MRO’s main mission is over at the end of 2010, it will have enough fuel to continue on for another 5 years.

August 12, 2005

March 10, 2006

End of Mission

Scheduled for December 31, 2010, but still operating


Investigate the history of water on Mars, using equipment that allows closer views than previous missions; establish a communications and navigation relay point for future space missions.


Despite some technology glitches with software and cameras, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has returned more data than all other interplanetary missions combined. This data reveals information about the diverse and changing Martian atmosphere, surface, and subsurface. Scientists have learned that Mars’ atmosphere changes seasonally, that the surface has deep canyons, and that they can see possible evidence of salty water flowing in craters during spring and summer. They have found that chloride minerals are present, which result from the evaporation of mineral-enriched water. MRO has helped monitor dust storms that would affect the rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, photographed Phoenix as it parachuted to the surface, and helped select landing sites for Mars Science Laboratory.