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Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter
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MISSION

Instruments

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

Science Instruments

Cameras
High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment
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.
Context Camera
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.
Mars Color Imager
MARCI (Mars Color Imager)
This weather camera monitors clouds and dust storms.
Spectrometer
Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars
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.
Radiometer
Mars Climate Sounder
MCS (Mars Climate Sounder)
This atmospheric profiler detects vertical variations in temperature, dust, and water vapor concentrations in the Martian atmosphere.
Radar
Shallow Radar
SHARAD (Shallow Radar)
This sounding radar probes beneath the Martian surface to see if water ice is present at depths greater than one meter (3.3 feet).

Engineering Instruments

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

Electra UHF Communications and Navigation PackageElectra 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.
Optical Navigation CameraThis 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.
Ka-band Telecommunications Experiment PackageDuring 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.

Science Facility Experiments

Two additional science investigations rely on engineering data.

Gravity Field Investigation PackageBy 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.
Atmospheric Structure Investigation AccelerometersData collected from accelerometers during aerobraking is helping scientists understand the structure of the Martian atmosphere.



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