NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) is a multipurpose spacecraft designed to conduct reconnaissance and exploration of Mars from orbit.
When MRO entered orbit there were five other spacecraft in orbit of or on Mars: Mars Global Surveyor, Mars Express, Mars Odyssey, and two Mars Exploration Rovers; a then record for most spacecraft operational in Mars vicinity. The $720 million USD spacecraft was built by Lockheed Martin under the supervision of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. It was launched August 12, 2005, and attained Martian orbit on March 10, 2006. In November 2006, after five months of aerobraking, it entered its final science orbit and began its primary science phase.
MRO contains a host of scientific instruments such as cameras, spectrometers, and radar, which are used to analyze the landforms, stratigraphy, minerals, and ice of Mars. It paves the way for future spacecraft by monitoring daily weather and surface conditions, studying potential landing sites, and hosting a new telecommunications system. MRO's telecommunications system will transfer more data back to Earth than all previous interplanetary missions combined, and MRO will serve as a highly capable relay satellite for future missions.
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