Timeline of important events in the history of the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter
Transfer orbit from Earth to Mars. TCM-1 to TCM-4 denote the planned trajectory correction maneuvers.
Timeline for the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) lists the significant events of the launch, aerobraking, and transition phases as well as subsequent significant operational mission events; by date and brief description.
Orbital insertion/ Aerobraking timeline
First image of Mars from the HiRISE camera
- March 10, 2006: MRO successfully completed orbital insertion.
- March 23, 2006: test images from three of MRO's cameras were taken. HiRISE images were taken over the course of two orbits, the first returned from a height of 2500 km (at about ten times poorer resolution than when the camera is in its final orbit). The CTX and MARCI cameras also took test images.
- March 30, 2006: MRO fired its intermediate thrusters for 58 seconds and dropped its periapsis by 94 km, in preparation to begin aerobraking.
- April 7, 2006: MRO begins a five-month-long Aerobraking Stage to reduce its highly elliptical orbit to a circular, low Mars orbit by mid-November.
- August 30, 2006: Aerobraking ended with a 6-minute burn of MRO's Trajectory Correction Maneuver (TCM) thrusters.
- September 5, 2006: The first of two burns to correctly position MRO into its final science orbit was performed.
- September 11, 2006: The second of two burns to finalize MRO's orbit was performed, officially ending the Aerobraking Stage.
This article needs to be updated. Please help update this article to reflect recent events or newly available information. (November 2010)
- September 29, 2006: All instruments will be tested from the science orbit.
- October 5, 2006: Instruments will be powered down for the Solar Conjunction.
- November 2006: Primary Science Phase (PSP) commences.
- May 25, 2008: HiRISE photographs Phoenix during its descent through the Martian atmosphere to a landing in Vastitas Borealis, making MRO the first probe to photograph another probe landing on the surface of another planet (not including the Moon).
- August 6, 2009: The spacecraft entered safe mode and switched to its backup computer. This is the third incident in 2009 and the seventh since launch.
- August 26, 2009: The spacecraft entered safe mode for the second time in August. The spacecraft is in communication with Earth and is being kept in this safe mode with scientific and rover communications relay activities discontinued while engineers study the data.
- December 8, 2009: The spacecraft is finally being taken out of safe mode that it has been in since August. The mission uploaded new software last week and plans to resume science operations once a check of all the science instruments is concluded in about a week.
- August 6, 2012: HiRISE photographs Curiosity during its descent through the Martian atmosphere to a landing in Gale crater.
- April 11, 2013: NASA announced that HiRISE may have achieved imaging the 1971 Soviet Mars 3 lander (and rover) hardware on the surface of Mars. On 2 December 1971, Mars 3 became the first spacecraft to attain soft landing on Mars and the second one on another planet, right after Venera 7, transmitting the first image data ever from Mars. Prior to that, amateur astronomers found what may be the parachute, retrorockets, heat shield and lander on MRO images from November 2007 and on 10 March 2013.
- July 29, 2015: MRO successfully completed a maneuver to put the spacecraft in an adjusted orbit for supporting InSight Mars lander in its descent and landing (originally scheduled for September 28, 2016, later shifted to Nov. 26, 2018). It was the biggest orbital maneuver of MRO, since its arrival at Mars in 2006.
- October 20, 2016: CTX takes a picture of two spots, not existing in this area on a previously taken image, what is supposed to show the site of ESA's crash landed Schiaparelli lander (on October 19, 2016).
- January 9, 2018: HiRISE takes a reference picture of an area for further investigations due to unexpectedly blurred images, since 2017, delimiting its practical resolution.
- Early February, 2018: MRO evaluated its test of a solely stellar navigation. Goal is to indefinitely swap over to this navigation mode to maintain the spacecraft's orientation without staying dependent on its aging gyroscopes and accelerometers.
- February 15, 2018: The spacecraft turned into safe mode again as it temporarily entered the martian shadow on its orbit. This response to sensing an unexpectedly low voltage indicates a problem with its aged batteries, which are essential for the solar-powered orbiter in this short period of shade in its orbit.
- February 23, 2018: MRO was brought out of safe mode for diagnostics and solution finding. Meanwhile, science observations and its service as communications relay for the Mars rovers have been suspended.
The HiRISE camera images the Curiosity
rover suspended from its parachute during descent through the Martian atmosphere.
Candidate hardware for 1971 Soviet Mars 3
lander on HiRISE images. The predicted landing site was in Ptolemaeus Crater
These before-and-after images of the MRO Context Camera indicates the supposed crash site of Schiaparelli
On February 9, 2018, NASA announced that it would keep using the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter past the mid-2020s, although in the meantime the spacecraft and mission must face signs of age-related functional disturbances: 1. flagging batteries, 2. blurred images from HiRISE since 2017, 3. lowering reliability of gyroscopes or accelerometers for navigation, which will require a challenging examination on a matching mission design. Despite those challenges the reasons for this decision are: the loss of Mars Global Surveyor in 2006, the postponement of the Mars 2022 orbiter as the proposed successor of MRO and MAVEN's shortage of fuel, that makes MRO now the critical element of the NASA's further Mars Exploration Program.