Subscribe free to our newsletters via your
  Mars Exploration News  

Subscribe free to our newsletters via your

Odyssey Orbiter Nears Martian Longevity Record

In Ares Vallis, teardrop mesas extend like pennants behind impact craters, where the raised rocky rims diverted the floods and protected the ground from erosion. Scientists estimate the floods had peak volumes many times the flow of today's Mississippi River. This image was taken by the Thermal Emission Imaging System instrument on NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter and posted in a special December 2010 set marking the occasion of Odyssey becoming the longest-working Mars spacecraft in history. The pictured location on Mars is 15.9 degrees north latitude, 330 degrees east longitude. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU. View a slide show of remarkable images to mark the approach to the Mars longevity record.
by Staff Writers
Pasadena CA (SPX) Dec 10, 2010
By the middle of next week, NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter will have worked longer at Mars than any other spacecraft in history. Odyssey entered orbit around Mars on Oct. 24, 2001. On Dec. 15, the 3,340th day since that arrival, it will pass the Martian career longevity record set by its predecessor, Mars Global Surveyor, which operated in orbit from Sept. 11, 1997, to Nov. 2, 2006.

Odyssey made its most famous discovery - evidence for copious water ice just below the dry surface of Mars - during its first few months, and it finished its radiation-safety check for future astronauts before the end of its prime mission in 2004. The bonus years of extended missions since then have enabled many accomplishments that would not have been possible otherwise.

"The extra years have allowed us to build up the highest-resolution maps covering virtually the entire planet," said Odyssey Project Scientist Jeffrey Plaut of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

The maps are assemblages of images from the orbiter's Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS) camera, provided and operated by Arizona State University, Tempe.

The orbiter's longevity has given Odyssey scientists the opportunity to monitor seasonal changes on Mars year-to-year, such as the cycle of carbon-dioxide freezing out of the atmosphere in polar regions during each hemisphere's winter.

"It is remarkable how consistent the patterns have been from year to year, and that's a comparison that wouldn't have been possible without our mission extensions," Plaut said.

Odyssey's performance has boosted benefits from other missions, too. When NASA's Mars Exploration Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, far exceeded their own expected lifetimes, Odyssey remained available as the rover's primary communication relay.

Nearly all the science data from the rovers and NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander has reached Earth via Odyssey relay. Odyssey also became the middle segment of continuous observation of Martian weather by a series of NASA orbiters: Mars Global Surveyor, Odyssey, and NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which began its science mission in late 2006.

A continuing partnership between JPL and Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, operates Odyssey.

"Hundreds of people who built the Odyssey spacecraft here, in addition to the much smaller crew operating it today, have great pride in seeing the spacecraft achieve this milestone," said Bob Berry, Odyssey program manager at Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company.

Odyssey's science triumphs began in early 2002 with detection of hydrogen just below the surface throughout the planet's high-latitude regions. Deduction that the hydrogen is in frozen water prompted the Phoenix mission, which confirmed that fact in 2008.

Investigators at the University of Arizona, Tucson, have headed the operation of Odyssey's Gamma Ray Spectrometer suite of instruments, which detected the hydrogen and subsequently mapped the distribution of several other elements on Mars.

Additional science partners are located at the Russian Aviation and Space Agency, which provided the suite's high-energy neutron detector, and at Los Alamos National Laboratories, New Mexico, which provided the neutron spectrometer.

The mission's science goal of checking radiation levels around Mars to aid planning of future human missions was completed by the Mars Radiation Environment Experiment, developed at NASA Johnson Space Center, Houston.

NASA has planned future work for Odyssey, in addition to having the orbiter continue its own science and its relay service for the Mars Exploration Rover mission. If required, controllers will adjust Odyssey's orbit so the spacecraft is in a favorable position for a communication relay role during the August 2012 landing of NASA's next Mars rover, Curiosity.

Share This Article With Planet Earth DiggDigg RedditReddit
YahooMyWebYahooMyWeb GoogleGoogle FacebookFacebook

Related Links
Mars Odyssey mission
Mars News and Information at
Lunar Dreams and more

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

Long-Lived Mars Odyssey Gets New Project Manager
Pasadena CA (JPL) Oct 18, 2010
The new project manager for the longest-working spacecraft currently active at Mars, NASA's Mars Odyssey, has a long track record himself. He is Gaylon McSmith, a former pilot of U.S. Air Force fighter jets and Continental Airlines airliners. At NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., he has been a leader on the Odyssey team since two months after the spacecraft began orbiting ... read more

Robotic Excavations Could Help Get Helium 3 From Moon To Earth

A Softer Landing on the Moon

Neptec Wins Canadian Space Agency Contract To Develop A New Generation Of Lunar Rovers

Mission to far side of moon proposed

NASA postpones Discovery launch to February 3

US military space UAV back on ground after 7 month mission

Roster Of Runways Ready To Bring A Shuttle Home

Demanding Design Boosts Shuttle Engine

ISS Tracks Months-Long Voyages Of Ships At Sea

Busy Day For ISS Commander

NASA Seeks Nonprofit To Manage ISS National Lab Research

Expedition 25 Returns Home

Japan probe shoots past Venus, may meet again in six years

Reflections - Personal and Planetary

Venus Holds Warning For Earth

Evidence of an 'active' Venus found

Huge Collision May Have Formed Saturn's Rings And Inner Moons

Cassini Returns Images Of Bright Jets At Enceladus

Cassini Finds Warm Cracks On Enceladus

Cassini Back To Normal, Ready For Enceladus

NASA Satellite Sees An Early Meteorological Winter In US Midwest

Redrawing The Map Of Great Britain Based On Human Interaction

Snow From Space

ASU Researcher Uses NASA Satellite To Explore Archaeological Site

Discovery Of The Secrets That Enable Plants Near Chernobyl To Shrug Off Radiation

South Africa unveils space agency

NASA sells PCs still containing data

SwRI Researchers Continue Starfighters Suborbital Space Flight Training

NASA Scientists Theorize Final Growth Spurt For Planets

NASA's Spitzer Reveals First Carbon-Rich Planet

Astronomers Detect First Carbon-Rich Exoplanet

Astronomers Discover New Planet In Planetary System Very Similar To Our Own

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2010 - SpaceDaily. AFP and UPI Wire Stories are copyright Agence France-Presse and United Press International. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by SpaceDaily on any Web page published or hosted by SpaceDaily. Privacy Statement