Feeds

NASA's Odyssey to break Martian long-service record

Orbiter clocks up 3,340 days

Security for virtualized datacentres

NASA has the champagne on ice as its Odyssey Orbiter prepares to break the "Martian longevity record".

On 15 December, the spacecraft will clock up its 3,340th day since entering orbit around the Red Planet on 24 October 2001, and will have "worked longer at Mars than any other spacecraft in history".

Odyssey takes the crown from its predecessor, Mars Global Surveyor, which "operated in orbit" between 11 September 1997 and 2 November 2006.

The highlight of Odyssey's career to date came in 2002, when it identified hydrogen just below the surface of Mars's high-latitude regions. Scientists' deduction that this element was held in frozen water was confirmed in 2008 by the Phoenix mission.

By the end of its prime mission in 2004, the spacecraft had completed its mapping of radiation around Mars to assist future human exploration, but an extension of its working life has allowed it to provide reams more data for NASA scientists to ponder.

Odyssey image of sand dunes in the Bunge Crater. Pic: NASA

Much of this has come from the onboard Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS) camera (see pic, above*). Odyssey Project Scientist Jeffrey Plaut, of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), said: "The extra years have allowed us to build up the highest-resolution maps covering virtually the entire planet."

Odyssey has also provided ongoing coverage of seasonal changes on Mars, including "the cycle of carbon-dioxide freezing out of the atmosphere in polar regions during each hemisphere's winter".

Plaut noted: "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."

The hard-working orbiter has additionally supported extended operations by the Spirit and Opportunity Mars Exploration Rovers, acting as their primary communications relay.

Bob Berry, Odyssey program manager at JPL's mission partner, Lockheed Martin Space Systems, enthused: "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."

NASA has a photo gallery of some of Odyssey's best Martian postcards right here. ®

Bootnote

* NASA explains: "Fans and ribbons of dark sand dunes creep across the floor of Bunge Crater in response to winds blowing from the direction at the top of the picture. The frame is about 14km (9 miles) wide."

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
SECRET U.S. 'SPACE WARPLANE' set to return from SPY MISSION
Robot minishuttle X-37B returns after almost 2 years in orbit
LOHAN crash lands on CNN
Overflies Die Welt en route to lively US news vid
America's super-secret X-37B plane returns to Earth after nearly TWO YEARS aloft
674 days in space for US Air Force's mystery orbital vehicle
'Utter killjoy Reg hacks have NEVER BEEN LAID', writes a fan
'Shuddit, smarty pants!' Some readers reacted badly to our last Doctor Who review ...
Experts brand LOHAN's squeaky-clean box
Phytosanitary treatment renders Vulture 2 crate fit for export
Carry On Cosmonaut: Willful Child is a poor taste Star Trek parody
Cringeworthy, crude and crass jokes abound in Steven Erikson’s sci-fi debut
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.