Dream Machine: Quantum Step to Mars Set for 2005

Save a lot of room in your Mars picture book. NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) is a you-haven’t-seen-anything-yet spacecraft. Set for liftoff in August 2005, the MRO will scrutinize the red planet like no previous orbiter and become the cornerstone of a futuristic interplanetary Internet. Tipping the scales at over two tons, this interplanetary probe is geared to relay back images and science measurements using the widest dish antenna and highest power level ever operated at Mars. As the “inspector general” in the Mars brigade from Earth, MRO is expected to yield unmatched close-up observations of Martian features. Its suite of high-resolution instruments will also assist in pinpointing sites of high science payoff for future landers, plus help ascertain touchdown hazards for robotic vehicles as well as future human expeditionary crews.