What do you get for a spacecraft that has everything? The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) has been orbiting Mars for 10 Martian years, so it seems like we should do something to mark the milestone, but what?
MRO loves photography, but it already has a fantastic camera that it uses regularly to take stunning pictures of the surface of Mars. It has a collection of over 216,000 images so far.
It just got a significant memory update last month, and it already has a state-of-the-art telecommunications system that it uses to keep in touch with landers on Mars, and old friends back on Earth. In fact, it’s sent over 264 terabits (33,000 gigabytes) of data back to Earth.
We’d suggest exercise equipment, but since it launched in 2005, the MRO has travelled 956 million miles, and orbited Mars 45,000 times.
A vacation might be nice, but considering that the MRO has kept working long past the scheduled end of its mission (December 2010), it’s unlikely that the MRO would take one. And let’s be real, at this point, if the MRO ever decided to head down to the surface of Mars for some R&R, it’s unlikely that it would ever get back up again.
Of course, this is all by Earth standards. If we’re measuring in Martian years (the amount of time it takes Mars to go around the sun), then the MRO has only been in orbit for about 5.3 years.
Still, we’re proud of you, MRO. Enjoy your anniversary.