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NASA's Odyssey Spacecraft Sets Exploration Record on Mars



Dec. 15, 2010

Dwayne Brown 
Headquarters, Washington                                    
202-358-1726 
dwayne.c.brown@xxxxxxxx 

Guy Webster 
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. 
818-354-6278 
guy.webster@xxxxxxxxxxxx   
RELEASE: 10-339

NASA'S ODYSSEY SPACECRAFT SETS EXPLORATION RECORD ON MARS

WASHINGTON -- NASA's Mars Odyssey, which launched in 2001, will break 
the record Wednesday for longest-serving spacecraft at the Red 
Planet. The probe begins its 3,340th day in Martian orbit at 8:55 
p.m. EST on Wednesday to break the record set by NASA's Mars Global 
Surveyor, which orbited Mars from 1997 to 2006. 

Odyssey's longevity enables continued science, including the 
monitoring of seasonal changes on Mars from year to year and the most 
detailed maps ever made of most of the planet. In 2002, the 
spacecraft detected hydrogen just below the surface throughout Mars' 
high-latitude regions. The deduction that the hydrogen is in frozen 
water prompted NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander mission, which confirmed 
the theory in 2008. Odyssey also carried the first experiment sent to 
Mars specifically to prepare for human missions, and found radiation 
levels around the planet from solar flares and cosmic rays are two to 
three times higher than around Earth. 

Odyssey also has served as a communication relay, handling most of the 
data sent home by Phoenix and NASA's Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit 
and Opportunity. Odyssey became the middle link for continuous 
observation of Martian weather by NASA's Mars Global Surveyor and 
NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). 

Odyssey will support the 2012 landing of the Mars Science Laboratory 
(MSL) and surface operations of that mission. MSL will assess whether 
its landing area has had environmental conditions favorable for 
microbial life and preserving evidence about whether life has existed 
there. The rover will carry the largest, most advanced set of 
instruments for scientific studies ever sent to the Martian surface. 

"The Mars program clearly demonstrates that world-class science 
coupled with sound and creative engineering equals success and 
longevity," said Doug McCuistion, director of the Mars Exploration 
Program at NASA Headquarters in Washington. 

Other recent NASA spacecraft at Mars include the Mars Global Surveyor 
that began orbiting the Red Planet in 1997. The Spirit and 
Opportunity rovers landed on Mars in January 2004. They have been 
exploring for six years, far surpassing their original 90-day 
mission. Phoenix landed May 25, 2008, farther north than any previous 
spacecraft to the planet's surface. The mission's biggest surprise 
was the discovery of perchlorate, an oxidizing chemical on Earth that 
is food for some microbes, but potentially toxic for others. The 
solar-powered lander completed its three-month mission and kept 
working until sunlight waned two months later. MRO arrived at Mars in 
2006 on a search for evidence that water persisted on the planet's 
surface for a long period of time. 

Odyssey is managed by JPL for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in 
Washington. Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver built the 
spacecraft. JPL and Lockheed Martin collaborate on operating the 
spacecraft. For more about the Mars Odyssey mission, visit: 



http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/odyssey 

	
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