Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Mission Objectives

To contribute to the four science goals, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has the following science objectives:

1. Characterize the present climate of Mars and its physical mechanisms of seasonal and interannual climate change

2. Determine the nature of complex layered terrain on Mars and identify water-related landforms

3. Search for sites showing evidence of aqueous and/or hydrothermal activity

4. Identify and characterize sites with the highest potential for landed science and sample return by future Mars missions

5. Return scientific data from Mars landed craft during a relay phase

Science Instruments That Are Helping Meet These Objectives

Six instruments on board the 2005 Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter are helping to achieve these objectives:


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HiRISE (High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment)

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 (Context Camera)

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 (Mars Color Imager)

This weather camera monitors clouds and dust storms.


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CRISM (Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars)

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 (Mars Climate Sounder)

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


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SHARAD (Shallow Radar)

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