Exploring the Solar System

Mars Missions in the Twenty-First Century

What is the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter?

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) was launched on August 12, 2005, from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on an Atlas V-401 rocket. It arrived without a hitch at Mars on March 10, 2006, and spent the next six months aerobraking from its initial, highly elliptical orbit into its final, nearly-circular orbit. MRO has taken the most detailed pictures from Martian orbit yet obtained of geological features and conditions on the surface of Mars. It has also been successfully used as a communications relay for other scientific missions to Mars—an important task for future years. By early 2010, MRO had already returned more than one hundred terabits of data—more than three times the amount of data from all other deep-space missions combined.


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