The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) is only ten years old, but what a decade it has been.
MRO has played an important in NASA’s Journey to Mars program, orbiting around the Red Planet and taking photos as scientists back home ogle over photos of dust storms, ice caps and avalanches; each event burning like a birthday-cake candle as eager researchers swoon in their other-worldly glow.
CBS News covered the 10th birthday of the orbiter, talking with NASA representatives about the significant of MRO’s decade-long aerial exposition of Earth’s Martian cousin.
Of particular importance in MRO’s body of work is it’s precise images of Mars’ surface, images which will help researchers “examine and select candidate sites” for human existence.
Data from (MRO) will also be used as part of NASA’s newly announced process to examine and select candidate sites where humans may first explore the Martian surface in the 2030’s.
Original plans for the orbiter were to send it to Mars for two years. That two years, Space.com pointed out, turned into 10.
Lockheed Martin Space System’s Kevin Gilliand was quoted as saying the spacecraft has brought back “an astonishing amount of science data” from the Red Planet.
Ten years after launch, MRO continues full science and relay operations. We’ve been able to bring back an astonishing amount of science data – more than 250 terabits so far.
A NASA press release about the spacecraft’s 10th birthday said the organization plans to continue its use of MRO. Two weeks ago the craft’s orbit was changed so that it will be ready to provide communications support for NASA’s 2016 InSight landing mission.
MRO has completed 40,000 orbits around Mars during its career. The spacecraft passes across the Red Planet’s north and south poles an average of 12 times per day, using six different scientific instruments to photograph, analyze and send data back to researchers on Earth.