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NASA’s Odyssey Orbiter Marks 20 Historic Years of Mapping Mars – NewsEverything Know-how

NASA’s 2001 Mars Odyssey spacecraft launched 20 years in the past on April 7, making it the oldest spacecraft nonetheless working on the Crimson Planet. The orbiter, which takes its identify from Arthur C. Clarke’s traditional sci-fi novel “2001: A Area Odyssey” (Clarke blessed its use earlier than launch), was despatched to map the composition of the Martian floor, offering a window to the previous so scientists may piece collectively how the planet developed.

However it’s performed way over that, uncovering troves of water ice, serving as an important communications hyperlink for different spacecraft, and serving to to pave the best way not only for safer landings but additionally future astronauts.

Right here’s a partial record of Odyssey’s many accomplishments.

Mapping Martian Ice

Odyssey’s 20 years of knowledge have been a boon for researchers working to find out the place water ice is locked up on the planet. Understanding the water cycle on Mars – a planet that was as soon as a lot wetter, like Earth – provides insights into the best way it has modified over time: How does water transfer across the planet right now? Does the lean of the planet have an effect on the place ice is steady? Odyssey’s discoveries have helped chip away at these questions.

“Earlier than Odyssey, we didn’t know the place this water was saved on the planet,” stated Challenge Scientist Jeffrey Plaut of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, which leads the Odyssey mission. “We detected it for the primary time from orbit and later confirmed it was there utilizing the Phoenix lander.”

Shops of water ice are additionally wanted to assist astronauts survive on Mars and to supply gasoline for his or her spacecraft. (In reality, astronauts have been the main focus of an instrument aboard Odyssey that measured how a lot house radiation they must deal with earlier than it stopped working in 2003.) The orbiter finds the water ice utilizing its gamma-ray spectrometer (GRS) detector, which has confirmed to be a succesful hunter of near-surface hydrogen – a proxy for water ice. The GRS measures the quantity of various components on the Martian floor and in addition serves as a node in NASA’s interplanetary gamma-ray burst (GRB) detection community, which identifies supply areas of GRB’s for follow-up astronomical observations.


Six views of the Martian moon Phobos captured by THEMIS as of March 2020. The digicam measures floor temperature day and evening. Finding out every moon’s thermophysics helps scientists decide the properties of supplies on their surfaces, simply as they did for the Martian floor.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU/NAU

What Mars Is Made Of

Have a look at virtually any mapping examine of the Martian floor, and it in all probability consists of Odyssey information. For a few years, probably the most full international maps of Mars have been made utilizing Odyssey’s infrared digicam, referred to as the Thermal Emission Imaging System, or THEMIS. The digicam measures the floor temperature day and evening, permitting scientists to find out what bodily supplies, resembling rock, sand, or mud, exist. Its information reveals the presence of those supplies primarily based on how they warmth up or quiet down over the course of a Martian day.

The web impact of 20 years’ value of all that mapping? Scientists haven’t simply used the information to map valley networks and craters, they’ve additionally been in a position to spot sandstone, iron-rich rocks, salts, and extra – findings that assist lend deeper perception to Mars’ story. “It’s onerous to overstate how the THEMIS international map has crammed gaps in our data,” stated Laura Kerber of JPL, Odyssey’s deputy challenge scientist.

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Footage taken between 2002 and 2004 by Odyssey’s THEMIS imager up this wind-sculpted sea of darkish dunes that covers an space as huge as Texas at Mars’ northern polar cap. On this enhanced-color picture, cooler areas have in bluer tints, whereas hotter options are depicted in yellows and oranges.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU

Safer Landings

THEMIS has despatched again greater than 1 million pictures because it started circling Mars. The photographs and maps it’s produced spotlight the presence of hazards, resembling topographic options and boulders, however in addition they assist guarantee the protection of future astronauts by exhibiting the situation of assets resembling water ice. This aids the Mars science neighborhood and NASA in deciding the place to ship landers and rovers – together with the Perseverance rover, which touched down on Feb. 18, 2021.

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This THEMIS picture exhibits a double-bowl crater. If a meteorite breaks in two shortly earlier than hitting the floor, the everyday bowl form of a single influence crater positive aspects a twin. The 2 round blast areas intersect, making a straight wall separating the pair of craters, whereas “wings” of ejected particles shoot out to the facet. The picture covers an space eight miles (13 kilometers) vast.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU

Routine Calls Dwelling

From early on, Odyssey has served as a long-distance name middle for NASA’s rovers and landers, sending their information again to Earth as a part of the Mars Relay Community. The thought of Mars relay goes again to the 1970’s, when the 2 Viking landers despatched science information and pictures by an orbiter again to Earth. An orbiter can carry radios or antennas able to sending again extra information than a floor spacecraft. However Odyssey made the method routine when it started conveying information to and from NASA’s Spirit and Alternative rovers.

“When the dual rovers landed, the success of relaying information utilizing UHF frequency was a gamechanger,” stated Chris Potts of JPL, Odyssey’s mission supervisor.

Every day, the rovers may go someplace new and ship contemporary pictures again to Earth. By means of a relay like Odyssey, scientists obtained extra information sooner, whereas the general public obtained extra Mars pictures to be excited over. Odyssey has supported over 18,000 relay periods. Lately, it shares the communications process with NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and MAVEN, together with the ESA (European Area Company) Hint Fuel Orbiter.

Sweet-Coloured Moons

Odyssey has performed such an intensive job of finding out the Martian floor that scientists have began turning its THEMIS digicam to seize distinctive views of Mars’ moons Phobos and Deimos. As with the Martian floor, finding out every moon’s thermophysics helps scientists decide the properties of supplies on their surfaces. Such data can provide glimpses into their previous: It’s unclear whether or not the moons are captured asteroids or chunks of Mars, blasted off the floor by an historic influence.

Future missions, just like the Japanese Area Company’s Martian Moons eXploration (MMX) spacecraft, will search to land on these moons. Within the distant future, missions would possibly even create bases on them for astronauts. And in the event that they do, they’ll depend on information from an orbiter that started its odyssey in the beginning of the millennium.

THEMIS was constructed and is operated by Arizona State College in Tempe. Odyssey’s Gamma Ray Spectrometer was supplied by the College of Arizona, Tucson, Los Alamos Nationwide Laboratory, and the Russian Area Analysis Institute. The prime contractor for the Odyssey challenge, Lockheed Martin Area in Denver, developed and constructed the orbiter. Mission operations are carried out collectively from Lockheed Martin and from JPL, a division of Caltech in Pasadena.

Supply: NASA



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