[meteorite-list] Mars Longevity Champion Launched 15 Years Ago (Mars Odyssey)
From: Ron Baalke <baalke_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Tue, 5 Apr 2016 14:36:40 -0700 (PDT)
Mars Longevity Champion Launched 15 Years Ago
Jet Propulsion Laboratory
April 5, 2016
The NASA spacecraft that was launched 15 years ago this week carried the
name 2001 Mars Odyssey and the hopes for reviving a stymied program of
exploring the Red Planet.
Back-to-back failures of two Mars missions launched in 1999 had prompted
an overhaul of NASA's Mars plans. It worked: Not only has Odyssey itself
operated successfully longer than any other spacecraft ever sent to Mars,
but during Odyssey's lifespan so far, all six subsequent NASA missions
sent to Mars have also succeeded.
A Delta II launch vehicle lifted Odyssey from Cape Canaveral Air Force
Station, Florida, on April 7, 2001. When the spacecraft reached Mars on
Oct. 24, 2001, it fired its main engine to enter orbit. A three-month
"aerobraking" phase followed, using carefully controlled dips into the
upper atmosphere of Mars to adjust the size and shape of the orbit in
preparation for systematic mapping of the Red Planet.
The year of the launch and arrival played into NASA naming the mission
2001 Mars Odyssey as a tribute to the vision and spirit of space exploration
portrayed in the works of science-fiction author Arthur C. Clarke, including
the best-seller "2001: A Space Odyssey." Clarke (1917-2008) endorsed the
mission's naming before the launch.
Odyssey completed its prime mission in 2004. With repeated mission extensions,
it became the longevity champion of Mars spacecraft in December 2010.
"Every day for more than five years, Odyssey has been extending its record
for how long a spacecraft can keep working at Mars," said Odyssey Project
Manager David Lehman of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.
"The spacecraft is remarkably healthy, and we have enough fuel to last
for several more years."
Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, built the Odyssey spacecraft and
collaborates with JPL in mission operations.
"In addition to the quality of this spacecraft, the careful way it is
operated has been crucial to how it has stayed so productive so long,"
said Odyssey Project Scientist Jeffrey Plaut of JPL. "Odyssey was designed
for a four-year mission. We're in the 15th year, and it keeps doing everything
we ask it to do."
Some of Odyssey's important findings were accomplished within the first
year after launch. One suite of instruments found evidence for water ice
close to the surface in large areas of Mars. Another investigation measured
the natural radiation environment on the way from Earth to Mars and in
orbit around Mars, gaining information vital for design of human missions
in what has become NASA's Journey to Mars.
Odyssey's longevity has enabled other feats, such as complete global mapping
of Mars both in daytime light and in nighttime infrared emissions.
Each full year of changing seasons on Mars lasts about 26 months, so Odyssey
has observed the planet through more than six Martian years. These observations
have revealed some seasonal patterns that repeat each year and other seasonal
events, such as large dust storms, which differ significantly from year
Just in the past year, Odyssey's orbit has put the spacecraft in position
to observe Mars in early-morning light. Previously, the spacecraft flew
over ground that was either in afternoon lighting or pre-dawn darkness.
Maneuvers in 2014 and 2015 were designed to alter the geometry of the
orbit with respect to the sun. The new geometry enables studies of morning
clouds and fogs and comparison of ground temperatures in the morning to
temperatures of the same sites in the afternoon and pre-dawn.
In addition to its direct contributions to planetary science, Odyssey
provides important support for other missions in NASA's Journey to Mars
through communication relay service and observations of candidate landing
sites. More than 90 percent of the data received from NASA's Spirit and
Opportunity rovers has been relayed via Odyssey. Relay support for NASA's
Curiosity Mars rover is shared between the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter
For more information about Odyssey, visit:
News Media Contact
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
guy.w.webster at jpl.nasa.gov
Dwayne Brown / Laurie Cantillo
NASA Headquarters, Washington
202-358-1726 / 202-358-1077
dwayne.c.brown at nasa.gov / laura.l.cantillo at nasa.gov
Received on Tue 05 Apr 2016 05:36:40 PM PDT