NASA's versatile Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which began orbiting Mars five years ago on March 10, has radically expanded our knowledge of the Red Planet and is now working overtime.
The mission has provided copious information about ancient environments, ice-age-scale climate cycles and present-day changes on Mars. The orbiter observes Mars' surface, subsurface and atmosphere in unprecedented detail. The spacecraft's large solar panels and dish antenna have enabled it to transmit more data to Earth 131 terabits and counting, including more than 70,000 images than all other interplanetary missions combined. Yet many things had to go well for the mission to achieve these milestones.