by Staff Writers
Pasadena CA (JPL) Mar 01, 2012
Ten years ago, on Feb. 19, 2002, the Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS), a multi-band camera on NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter, began scientific operations at the Red Planet. Since then the camera has circled Mars nearly 45,000 times and taken more than half a million images at infrared and visible wavelengths.
"THEMIS has proven itself a workhorse," said Philip Christensen of Arizona State University, Tempe, the camera's principal investigator and designer. "It's especially gratifying to me to see the range of discoveries that have been made using this instrument."
Highlights of science results by THEMIS over the past 10 years include:
+ Confirming a mineral exposure selected as the landing site for NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity
+ Discovering carbon-dioxide gas jets at the south polar ice cap in spring
+ Discovering chloride salt deposits across the planet
+ Making the best global image map of Mars ever done
+ Identifying safe landing sites landing sites for NASA's Mars Phoenix lander by finding the locations with the fewest hazardous boulders
+ Monitoring dust activity in the Martian atmosphere
+ Discovering that a large crater, Aram Chaos, once contained a lake
+ Discovering that Mars has more water-carved channels than previously thought
+ Discovering dacite on Mars, a more evolved form of volcanic lava not previously known on the Red Planet
THEMIS combines a five-wavelength visual imaging system with a nine-wavelength infrared imaging system. By comparing daytime and nighttime infrared images of an area, scientists can determine many of the physical properties of the rocks and soils on the ground.
Mars Odyssey has a two-hour orbit that is nearly "sun-synchronous," meaning that Odyssey passes over the same part of Mars at roughly the same local time each day. In September 2008 its orbit was shifted toward an earlier time of day, which enhanced THEMIS' mineralogical detection capability.
Says Christensen, "Both Odyssey and THEMIS are in excellent health and we look forward to years more science with them."
NASA launched the Mars Odyssey spacecraft April 7, 2001. Odyssey arrived at Mars Oct. 24, 2001. After arrival the spacecraft spent several months in a technique called aerobraking, which involved dipping into the Martian atmosphere to adjust its orbit. In February 2002, science operations began.
Mars Odyssey Orbiter at JPL
THEMIS at ASU
Mars News and Information at MarsDaily.com
Lunar Dreams and more
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NASA Official Announces Chair of New Mars Program Planning Group
Washington DC (SPX) Mar 01, 2012
NASA's associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate, John Grunsfeld, has named former veteran NASA program manager Orlando Figueroa to lead a newly established Mars Program Planning Group (MPPG) tasked to reformulate the agency's Mars Exploration Program. Figueroa's first assignment is to develop a draft framework for review by March 15. Grunsfeld made the announcement at an ... read more
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