It has been longer than ever expected and the space craft has surpassed all expectations, and now the Mars Orbiter is celebrating its 10th anniversary with new images of the Red Planet. A decade long of service to NASA and human kind has provided us ample information we have on the foreign planet, and it’s still going strong.
The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) is the long standing hero that is barely the size of a computer desk, but has endured outer space and has been orbiting the Red Planet for four Martian years. It has brought us extensive knowledge and valuable details that allows astronomers and scientists to plan out the next move: manned missions.
The Mars Orbiter was launched in July, 2005, and has been the key element which has led NASA to discovering and viewing occurrences on Mars, ranging from simple surface images to information about its core that has been crucial for sending out NASA’s Opportunity and Curiosity rovers. It allowed proper communication in between the exploring machines and Earth.
Rich Zurek, from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) has credited the MRO to discovering the south polar caps on Mars, with information about the vast amounts of carbon dioxide ice that could easily double the planet’s temperature upon release.
Even more, it has made observations upon the changing seasons on Mars, studying for 4 Martian years on how time impacts and modifies the barren lands of the planet. It made impactful investigations of avalanches, dust storms, ancient meteorites and new craters that revealed cold ice beneath the surface.
After 10 years of service, the Mars Orbiter has also found signs of an ancient lake that might’ve been present on Mars around 3.6 billion years ago, led to the discovery by the weathered aspect of rocks upon the surface. It’s the trademark effect of water flow, along with the salt deposits that further encourage the possibility of there being water on the Red Planet.
Water is the source to life, but while now barren, it holds the possibility that there once was more than just rocks and dust on Mars. It’s vital information for future possibilities and future explorations alike, as NASA’s InSight will be landing in 2016 and the Mars 2020 rover in the next five years.
The opportunities do not stop there, however, as NASA also plans its first manned mission to the Red Planet in 2030, which means that hopefully, Mars Orbiter will last another 15 years of service and provide us with proper information to safely send man on the planet.
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