MRO Instruments

What are Science Instruments?

Science instruments are state-of-the-art tools for acquiring information about Martian geology, atmosphere, environmental conditions, and potential biosignatures.

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft carries six instruments, three engineering instruments, and two more science-facility experiments experiments.


HiRISE instrument image

HiRISE (High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment)

Alfred McEwen, Principal Investigator Lunar and Planetary Laboratory at the University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ, USA

This visible camera reveals small-scale objects in the debris blankets of mysterious gullies and details of geologic structure of canyons, craters, and layered deposits.
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CTX instrument image

CTX (Context Camera)

Mike Malin, Principal Investigator Malin Space Science Systems, San Diego, CA, USA

This camera provides wide-area views to help provide a context for high-resolution analysis of key spots on Mars provided by HiRISE and CRISM.
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MARCI instrument image

MARCI (Mars Color Imager)

Mike Malin, Principal Investigator Malin Space Science Systems, San Diego, CA, USA

This weather camera monitors clouds and dust storms.
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CRISM instrument image

CRISM (Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars)

Scott Murchie, Principal Investigator Applied Physical Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University, Laurel, MD, USA

This instrument splits visible and near-infrared light in its images into hundreds of "colors" that identify minerals, especially those likely formed in the presence of water, in surface areas on Mars not much bigger than a football field.
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MCS instrument image

MCS (Mars Climate Sounder)

Daniel McCleese, Principal Investigator Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA, USA

This atmospheric profiler detects vertical variations in temperature, dust, and water vapor concentrations in the Martian atmosphere.
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SHARAD instrument image

SHARAD (Shallow Radar)

Roberto Seu, Principal Investigator University of Rome La Sapienza, Rome, Italy

This sounding radar probes beneath the Martian surface to see if water ice is present at depths greater than one meter (3.3 feet).
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Engineering Instruments

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter carries three instruments that assist with spacecraft navigation and communications.

Electra UHF Communications and Navigation Package

Electra allows the spacecraft to act as a communications relay between the Earth and landed crafts on Mars that may not have sufficient radio power to communicate directly with Earth by themselves.
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Optical Navigation Camera

This camera was tested for improved navigation capability for future missions. Similar cameras on orbiters of the future will serve as high-precision interplanetary "eyes" to guide incoming spacecraft as they near Mars.
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Ka-band Telecommunications Experiment Package

During the cruise phase of the mission, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter demonstrated the use of a radio frequency called the Ka-band to enhance communications using significantly less power.
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Science Facility Experiments

Two additional science investigations rely on engineering data.

Gravity Field Investigation Package

By tracking the orbiter during the primary science phase, team members have been mapping the gravity field of Mars to understand the geology of the surface and near-surface and the geophysical processes that produced these land features. For example, analysis may reveal how the planet's mass is redistributed as the Martian polar caps form and dissipate seasonally.
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Atmospheric Structure Investigation Accelerometers

Data collected from accelerometers during aerobraking is helping scientists understand the structure of the Martian atmosphere.
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