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Introduction

NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter blasted off from Cape Canaveral in 2005, on a search for evidence that water existed on the surface of Mars for a long period of time. While other Mars missions have shown that water flowed across the surface in Mars' history, it remained a mystery whether surface water existed long enough to provide a habitat for life.

Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA designed MRO to produce extreme close-up photographs of the Martian surface, analyze minerals, look for subsurface water, trace the amount of dust and water distributed in the atmosphere, and monitor daily global weather. These studies have identified deposits of minerals that may have formed in water over long periods of time. Researchers are looking for evidence of shorelines of ancient seas and lakes, and analyzing deposits placed in layers over time by flowing water.

Findings

NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter gave us an unprecedented birds-eye view of the Red Planet:

Visual evidence of flowing water

Mysterious features on slopes hint there could be water flows on Mars.

Dry ice and dunes

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter captures the springtime thaw of seasonal carbon dioxide ice on Mars.

Subsurface ice discovery

NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter revealed frozen water hiding just below the surface of mid-latitude Mars.

Dust devils

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Catches a Twister in Action.