Conceptual drawing of 2001 Mars Odyssey over Mars
|Orbital insertion date||October 24, 2001|
|Launch date||April 7, 2001|
|Launch vehicle||Delta II|
|Mission duration||8 years, 11 months, and 8 days
|Home page||2001 Mars Odyssey|
|Mass||725 (331.8 + 348.7 fuel) kg|
|Semimajor axis||3785 km (~400 km above surface)|
|Orbital period||1.964 hours|
2001 Mars Odyssey is a robotic spacecraft orbiting the planet Mars. The project was developed by NASA, and contracted out to Lockheed Martin, with an expected cost for the entire mission of US$297 million. Its mission is to use spectrometers and electronic imagers to hunt for evidence of past or present water and volcanic activity on Mars. It is hoped that the data Odyssey obtains will help answer the question of whether life has ever existed on Mars. It also acts as a relay for communications between the Mars Exploration Rovers and the Phoenix lander to Earth. The mission was named after the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Odyssey was launched April 7, 2001 on a Delta II rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, and reached Mars orbit on October 24, 2001, at 2:30 a.m. UTC (October 23, 7:30 p.m. PDT, 10:30 p.m. EDT). The spacecraft's main engine fired in order to brake the spacecraft's speed, which allowed it to be captured into orbit around Mars. Odyssey used a technique called "aerobraking" that gradually brought the spacecraft closer to Mars with each orbit. By using the atmosphere of Mars to slow down the spacecraft in its orbit, rather than firing its engine or thrusters, Odyssey was able to save more than 200 kilograms (440 lb) of propellant. Aerobraking ended in January, and Odyssey began its science mapping mission on February 19, 2002.
Mars Odyssey was originally a component of the Mars Surveyor 2001 program, and was named the Mars Surveyor 2001 Orbiter. It was intended to have a companion spacecraft known as Mars Surveyor 2001 Lander, but the lander mission was canceled in May 2000 following the failures of Mars Climate Orbiter and Mars Polar Lander in late 1999. Subsequently, the name 2001 Mars Odyssey was selected for the orbiter as a specific tribute to the vision of space exploration shown in works by Arthur C. Clarke, including 2001: A Space Odyssey. The music from Mythodea by Greek composer Vangelis was used as the theme music for the mission.
The three primary instruments Odyssey uses are the:
NASA has approved a third two year extended mission, through September 2010, to allow for the observation of year-to-year differences in phenomena like polar ice, clouds, and dust storms, as well as a much more sensitive mapping of martian minerals. On September 30, 2008 the spacecraft activated its thrusters for 6 minutes, in order to begin altering its orbit, to gain an even better sensitivity for its infrared mapping of Martian minerals. The change will cause the spacecraft to move from a late afternoon orbit to a mid afternoon orbit by decreasing the time it passes over a location by 20 seconds per day, until a new thruster burn occurs in late 2009 which will stabilize its orbit. Unfortunately, the new orbit will eliminate the use of the Gamma Ray Spectrometer Suite, due to potential for overheating the instrument at the new orbit. The extension will also continue Odyssey's support for other Mars missions. The orbiter contains enough propellant to operate at least until 2015. About 85 percent of images and other data from NASA's twin Mars Exploration Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, have reached Earth via communications relay by Odyssey, which receives transmissions from both rovers every day. The orbiter helped analyze potential landing sites for the rovers and performed the same task for NASA's Phoenix mission, which landed on Mars in May, 2008. Odyssey aided NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which reached Mars in March 2006, by monitoring atmospheric conditions during months when the newly arrived orbiter used aerobraking to alter its orbit into the desired shape.
On July 31, 2008, NASA announced that the Phoenix lander confirmed the presence of water on Mars, as predicted in 2002 based on data from the Odyssey orbiter. The science team is trying to determine whether the water ice ever thaws enough to be available for biology, and if carbon-containing chemicals and other raw materials for life are present.