The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and it’s Mars mission

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter
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One of the amazing vehicles humans have sent to Mars to explore the red planet is the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. What is the MRO? According to Wikipedia:

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) is a multipurpose spacecraft designed to conduct reconnaissance and exploration of Mars from orbit. The US$720 million spacecraft was built by Lockheed Martin under the supervision of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). The mission is managed by the California Institute of Technology, at the JPL, in La Cañada Flintridge, California, for the NASA Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. 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. As MRO entered orbit, it joined five other active spacecraft that were either in orbit or on the planet’s surface: Mars Global Surveyor, Mars Express, 2001 Mars Odyssey, and the two Mars Exploration Rovers (Spirit and Opportunity); at the time, this set a record for the most operational spacecraft in the immediate vicinity of Mars. Mars Global Surveyor and the Spirit rover have since ceased to function; the remainder remain operational as of March 2016.

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 will transfer more data back to Earth than all previous interplanetary missions combined, and MRO will serve as a highly capable relay satellite for future missions.

בעברית: בויקיפדיה

The official NASA MRO website also has a great overview of the MRO’s mission which you should read for more background information and links to more information about aspects of the mission.

I noticed a terrific video commemorating 10 years of the MRO’s mission which includes some wonderful imagery:

You can also find a huge gallery of high resolution imagery in the NASA JPL Photojournal that is worth spending some time exploring. Here are some examples:

Wind at work
The Ares 3 Landing Site: Where Science Fact Meets Fiction
Aeolian Features of Scandia Cavi

Image credit: Wikipedia (Public Domain)

The journey to Mars

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I’m really looking forward to the movie, “The Martian“. The latest trailer looks awesome:

As cool as the movie looks, the real-life #JourneyToMars is even more spectacular. NASA JPL released a retrospective video titled “50 Years of Mars Exploration” showcasing highlights from Humanity’s 50 year history exploring Mars. 50 years!

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Labs has loads of awesome videos on YouTube and it is definitely worth subscribing to JPL’s channel. By the way, did you notice the soundtrack in this video? Sounds a lot like the Transformers soundtracks by Steve Jablonsky.

Another great video to watch is this one titled “11 Years and Counting – Opportunity on Mars” that chronicles the Opportunity rover’s discoveries on Mars:

My favourite video is still “Seven Minutes of Terror: The Challenges of Getting to Mars“:

You can follow updates about Humanity’s journey to Mars using the #JourneyToMars hashtag on Twitter too:

Image credit: Daybreak at Gale Crater from the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, licensed CC BY 2.0


This post was originally published on my blog as “The history of Humanity’s #JourneyToMars” on 2015-08-23