Feeds

NASA's Odyssey to break Martian long-service record

Orbiter clocks up 3,340 days

The next step in data security

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."

New hybrid storage solutions

More from The Register

next story
PORTAL TO ELSEWHERE scried in small galaxy far, far away
Supermassive black hole dominates titchy star formation
Bacon-related medical breakthrough wins Ig Nobel prize
Is there ANYTHING cured pork can't do?
Boffins say they've got Lithium batteries the wrong way around
Surprises at the nano-scale mean our ideas about how they charge could be all wrong
Edge Research Lab to tackle chilly LOHAN's final test flight
Our US allies to probe potential Vulture 2 servo freeze
Europe prepares to INVADE comet: Rosetta landing site chosen
No word yet on whether backup site is labelled 'K'
Cracked it - Vulture 2 power podule fires servos for 4 HOURS
Pixhawk avionics juice issue sorted, onwards to Spaceport America
Archaeologists and robots on hunt for more Antikythera pieces
How much of the world's oldest computer can they find?
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
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?
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.