MAY 19, 2019 6:26 AM PDT

NASA's MRO Has Orbited Mars More than 60,000 Times

WRITTEN BY: Anthony Bouchard

NASA explores the Martian surface day-in and day-out with specialized rover vehicles like Curiosity, but an eye in the sky dubbed the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) helps scientists at the American space agency coordinate where those rovers should go next and delivers a steady stream of surface images to Earth for analysis.

Based on just how much the MRO contributes to modern Martian exploration, it should come as no surprise to anyone that NASA is celebrating a significant milestone set by the spacecraft this past week. Astonishingly, the MRO has completed more than 60,000 loops around Mars since it first entered orbit around the red planet thirteen years ago.

An artist's illustration of the MRO orbiting Mars.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

According to one of NASA’s public statements on the matter, the MRO hit this milestone 1:39 P.M. Eastern time on Wednesday. NASA also shared some fun facts, stating that the MRO races around Mars at an average break-neck speed of two miles per second. At this rate, it takes the MRO just 112 minutes to complete an orbit around Mars.

Impressive indeed; but hold onto your britches because NASA says the MRO is well on its way to shattering yet another milestone later this month.

Related: NASA's InSight lander is providing daily weather reports from Mars

As we explained earlier, the MRO plays an integral part in helping scientists coordinate with Martian land vehicles, and this means it does a lot of wireless communication. As it would seem, the MRO is close to relaying its first full terabit of surface mission data to scientists on Earth – this data includes information from rovers and landers, such as the famous selfies that the Curiosity rover likes to take every now and again.

"MRO has given scientists and the public a new perspective of Mars," said Dan Johnston, MRO project manager. "We've also supported NASA's fleet of Mars surface missions, allowing them to send their images and discoveries back to scientists on Earth."

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

"Mars is our laboratory," added MRO Deputy Project Scientist Leslie Tamppari. "After more than a decade, we've collected enough data to formulate and test hypotheses to see how they change or hold up over time."

Related: Where should we land the upcoming Mars 2020 rover?

Thanks to the MRO, we now know a lot more about our neighboring planet than we ever did before its launch. With more than 378,000 images snapped throughout its lifetime, MRO has offered a unique look at Mars’ surface features and allowed scientists to track how they change with time. This information is valuable, especially as we march closer toward the eventual goal of sending humans to Mars to explore the world in person.

It should be interesting to see how many more milestones the MRO will shatter, but only time will tell…

Source: NASA

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
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