Timeline for the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) lists the significant events of the launch, aerobraking, and transition phases as well as subsequent significant operational mission events; by date and brief description.
On February 9, 2018, NASA announced that it would keep using the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter past the mid-2020s, although in the meantime the spacecraft and mission must face signs of age-related functional disturbances: 1. flagging batteries, 2. blurred images from HiRISE since 2017, 3. lowering reliability of gyroscopes or accelerometers for navigation, which will require a challenging examination on a matching mission design.Despite those challenges the reasons for this decision are: the loss of Mars Global Surveyor in 2006, the postponement of the Mars 2022 orbiter as the proposed successor of MRO and MAVEN's shortage of fuel, that makes MRO now the critical element of the NASA's further Mars Exploration Program.
2001 Mars Odyssey is a robotic spacecraft orbiting the planet Mars. The project was developed by NASA, and contracted out to Lockheed Martin, with an expected cost for the entire mission of US$297 million. Its mission is to use spectrometers and a thermal imager to detect evidence of past or present water and ice, as well as study the planet's geology and radiation environment. It is hoped that the data Odyssey obtains will help answer the question of whether life existed on Mars and create a risk-assessment of the radiation that future astronauts on Mars might experience. It also acts as a relay for communications between the Curiosity rover, and previously the Mars Exploration Rovers and Phoenix lander, to Earth. The mission was named as a tribute to Arthur C. Clarke, evoking the name of his and Stanley Kubrick's 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) was an American robotic space probe developed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and launched November 1996. MGS was a global mapping mission that examined the entire planet, from the ionosphere down through the atmosphere to the surface. As part of the larger Mars Exploration Program, Mars Global Surveyor performed atmospheric monitoring for sister orbiters during aerobraking, and helped Mars rovers and lander missions by identifying potential landing sites and relaying surface telemetry.
NASA's Mars Exploration Rover (MER) mission was a robotic space mission involving two Mars rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, exploring the planet Mars. It began in 2003 with the launch of the two rovers to explore the Martian surface and geology; both landed on Mars at separate locations in January 2004. Both rovers far outlived their planned missions of 90 Martian solar days: MER-A Spirit was active until March 22, 2010, while MER-B Opportunity was active until June 10, 2018.
The Mars Climate Orbiter was a robotic space probe launched by NASA on December 11, 1998, to study the Martian climate, Martian atmosphere, and surface changes and to act as the communications relay in the Mars Surveyor '98 program for Mars Polar Lander. However, on September 23, 1999, communication with the spacecraft was permanently lost as it went into orbital insertion. The spacecraft encountered Mars on a trajectory that brought it too close to the planet, and it was either destroyed in the atmosphere or escaped the planet's vicinity and entered an orbit around the Sun. An investigation attributed the failure to a measurement mismatch between two software systems: metric units by NASA and US customary units by spacecraft builder Lockheed Martin.
Spirit, also known as MER-A or MER-2, is a Mars robotic rover, active from 2004 to 2010. Spirit was operational on Mars for 2208 sols or 3.3 Martian years. It was one of two rovers of NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Mission managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). Spirit landed successfully within the impact crater Gusev on Mars at 04:35 Ground UTC on January 4, 2004, three weeks before its twin, Opportunity (MER-B), which landed on the other side of the planet. Its name was chosen through a NASA-sponsored student essay competition. The rover got stuck in a "sand trap" in late 2009 at an angle that hampered recharging of its batteries; its last communication with Earth was on March 22, 2010.
Opportunity, also known as MER-B or MER-1, is a robotic rover that was active on Mars from 2004 until 2018. Opportunity was operational on Mars for 5111 sols. Launched on July 7, 2003, as part of NASA's Mars Exploration Rover program, it landed in Meridiani Planum on January 25, 2004, three weeks after its twin, Spirit (MER-A), touched down on the other side of the planet. With a planned 90-sol duration of activity, Spirit functioned until it got stuck in 2009 and ceased communications in 2010, while Opportunity was able to stay operational for 5111 sols after landing, maintaining its power and key systems through continual recharging of its batteries using solar power, and hibernating during events such as dust storms to save power. This careful operation allowed Opportunity to operate for 57 times its designed lifespan, exceeding the initial plan by 14 years, 47 days. By June 10, 2018, when it last contacted NASA, the rover had traveled a distance of 45.16 kilometers.
The planet Mars has been explored remotely by spacecraft. Probes sent from Earth, beginning in the late 20th century, have yielded a large increase in knowledge about the Martian system, focused primarily on understanding its geology and habitability potential. Engineering interplanetary journeys is complicated and the exploration of Mars has experienced a high failure rate, especially the early attempts. Roughly sixty percent of all spacecraft destined for Mars failed before completing their missions and some failed before their observations could begin. Some missions have been met with unexpected success, such as the twin Mars Exploration Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, which operated for years beyond their specification.
The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) is a spacecraft designed to search for the existence of water on Mars and provide support for missions to Mars, as part of NASA's Mars Exploration Program. It was launched from Cape Canaveral on August 12, 2005, at 11:43 UTC and reached Mars on March 10, 2006, at 21:24 UTC. In November 2006, after six months of aerobraking, it entered its final science orbit and began its primary science phase.
Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) is a robotic space probe mission to Mars launched by NASA on November 26, 2011, which successfully landed Curiosity, a Mars rover, in Gale Crater on August 6, 2012. The overall objectives include investigating Mars' habitability, studying its climate and geology, and collecting data for a human mission to Mars. The rover carries a variety of scientific instruments designed by an international team.
High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment is a camera on board the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter which has been orbiting and studying Mars since 2006. The 65 kg (143 lb), US$40 million instrument was built under the direction of the University of Arizona's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. It consists of a 0.5 m (19.7 in) aperture reflecting telescope, the largest so far of any deep space mission, which allows it to take pictures of Mars with resolutions of 0.3 m/pixel, resolving objects below a meter across.
Endeavour is an impact crater located in the Meridiani Planum extraterrestrial plain within the Margaritifer Sinus quadrangle (MC-19) region of the planet Mars. Endeavour is about 22 kilometers (14 mi) in diameter. Using Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter data, phyllosilicate-bearing outcrops have been detected along its rim. These minerals may have formed under wet conditions in a low-acidic environment during the early history of Mars. There are raised rim segments to the north, east, and southwest. The rim has become worn, rounded and degraded, with infilling of plains material in a manner similar to the Victoria crater.
The Mars Orbiter Camera and Mars Observer Camera (MOC) were scientific instruments on board the Mars Observer and Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft. The camera was built by Malin Space Science Systems (MSSS) for NASA and the cost of the whole MOC scientific investigation project was about US$44 million, higher than anticipated in the budget.
Opportunity is a robotic rover that was active on the planet Mars from 2004 to 2018. Launched on July 7, 2003, Opportunity landed on Mars' Meridiani Planum on January 25, 2004, at 05:05 Ground UTC, three weeks after its twin Spirit (MER-A), also part of NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Mission, touched down on the other side of the planet. While Spirit became immobile in 2009 and ceased communications in 2010, Opportunity exceeded its planned 90 sol duration of activity by 14 years 46 days. Opportunity continued to move, gather scientific observations, and report back to Earth until 2018. What follows is a summary of events during its continuing mission.
Mars Cube One was a Mars flyby mission launched on 5 May 2018 alongside NASA's InSight Mars lander. It consisted of two nanospacecraft, MarCO-A and MarCO-B, that provided real-time communications to Earth for InSight during its entry, descent, and landing (EDL) on 26 November 2018 - when InSight was out of line of sight from the Earth. Both spacecraft were 6U CubeSats designed to test miniaturized communications and navigation technologies. These were the first CubeSats to operate beyond Earth orbit, and aside from telecommunications they also tested CubeSats' endurance in deep space. On 5 February 2019, NASA reported that both the CubeSats had gone silent by 5 January 2019, and are unlikely to be heard from again. In August 2019, the CubeSats were honored for their role in the successful landing of the InSight lander on Mars.
Schiaparelli EDM was a failed Entry, Descent, and Landing Demonstrator Module (EDM) of the ExoMars programme—a joint mission of the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Russian Space Agency Roscosmos. It was built in Italy and was intended to test technology for future soft landings on the surface of Mars. It also had a limited but focused science payload that would have measured atmospheric electricity on Mars and local meteorological conditions.
Sarah Milkovich is lead of Science Operations for the Mars 2020 rover at Jet Propulsion Laboratory. She was investigation scientist for the HiRISE camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.