On 12 August 2005, NASA launched its Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) from Cape Canaveral, Florida. The orbiter has since then sent back about 385 terabits of data and remains active to this day to carry on its mission on Mars.
Sent with the task of studying temperatures of the Martian atmosphere and collecting information about the minerals present on the planet's surface, the MRO has also sent back some breathtaking images. To celebrate 15 years of its launch, NASA posted some of the most astounding pictures taken by the HiRISE camera on the MRO.
While one picture showcases an avalanche in action, another shows a dust devil making its way over the Martian surface. A crater created on Mars and migrating landforms are the subjects of the other pictures.
There are three cameras aboard the orbiter:
- The Mars Color Imager (MARCI), which is tasked with the duty of capturing a global view daily;
- The Context Camera (CTX), which provides 30-kilometer-wide black and white terrain shots;
- The High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE), which is responsible for capturing "tightly focused images".
These images are then managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California.
Through the years, HiRISE has captured some "dramatic scenes of nature" like skyscraping dust devils, avalanches and changing landscapes. These were possible due to the extreme zoom-in capability of the camera that manages to capture detailed, high-resolution colour images of Mars. Since 2006, HiRISE has alone sent back 6,882,204 images.
Beautiful Mars! Our Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter launched 15 years ago today to study the Red Planet's atmosphere, weather, subsurface water, and more. But the mission might best be known for the images sent by its @HiRISE camera: https://t.co/Z7pOAes4tA pic.twitter.com/i1UdmO9FY2
" NASA (@NASA) August 12, 2020
The orbiter has managed to capture the multiple spacecrafts - Spirit, Opportunity as well as the Curiosity rover - trekking and exploring Mars.
According to NASA, when its latest rover Perseverance reaches the Jezero Crater on 18 February 2021, we will be sure to get some close-up shots of the craft via HiRISE.