The Space Foundation applauded the successful insertion today of the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) spacecraft into orbit around the Red Planet. The Foundation hailed the accomplishments of the entire MRO team on completing a crucial next step in our exploration of the solar system.

The MRO spacecraft will examine Mars from orbit in unmatched detail and lead the way to future discovery. MRO will put the Red Planet under a microscope that is expected to return more data about Mars than all previous Mars missions combined.

“Successful achievement of Mars orbit is a feat in itself,” said Elliot G. Pulham, Space Foundation president and chief executive officer. Referring to the large number of spacecraft lost by space agencies around the world in previous attempts, Pulham said, “Having gotten past ‘the monsters out there,’ the scientific potential of MRO is astounding, and could well lay the foundation for even more ambitious robotic and human space exploration.”

MRO launched Aug. 12 atop an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. The next step for the spacecraft is a series of aerobraking maneuvers to optimize its orbit to explore the planet. In November, the spacecraft will begin a 25-month mission studying Mars’ composition and structure.

Researchers will use the MRO data to gain further insights as to whether life ever existed on Mars and to characterize Martian climate and geology. It also will evaluate possible sites for future Martian landings. After completion of its initial mission, the spacecraft will serve as a high-data-rate communications relay for surface missions.

Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, was the prime contractor for the project and built the spacecraft for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which manages the project. For more information about the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and its mission, go to

About the Space Foundation

Founded in 1983 and headquartered in Colorado Springs, the Space Foundation is a national nonprofit organization that vigorously advances civil, commercial, and national security space endeavors and educational excellence. The Space Foundation has offices in Washington, D.C., and Cape Canaveral, Fla. The Space Foundation’s signature event, the National Space Symposium, is scheduled for April 3-6, 2006, at The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, Colo. Along with partnering organizations, the Space Foundation also conducts Inside Aerospace, April 24-25, 2006, in Washington, D.C.; Strategic Space and Defense, 10-12 Oct. 2006 in Omaha, Neb.; and Florida Space, Dec. 5-7, 2006, in Orlando, Fla. For more information, visit