To contribute to the four science goals, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has the following science objectives:
- Characterize the present climate of Mars and its physical mechanisms of seasonal and interannual climate change
- Determine the nature of complex layered terrain on Mars and identify water-related landforms
- Search for sites showing evidence of aqueous and/or hydrothermal activity
- Identify and characterize sites with the highest potential for landed science and sample return by future Mars missions
- 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:
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.
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.
MCS (Mars Climate Sounder)
This atmospheric profiler detects vertical variations in temperature, dust, and water vapor concentrations in the Martian atmosphere.
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).