NASA’s 2001 Mars Odyssey orbiter is marking the 15th anniversary of its launch on April 7, 2001 from Cape Canaveral on a mission designed to search for water ice, as well as study the geology on Mars.
The spacecraft reached Mars orbit on October 24, 2001 and is currently still in a polar orbit around Mars with an altitude of about 3,800 km or 2,400 miles.
“Every day for more than five years, Odyssey has been extending its record for how long a spacecraft can keep working at Mars,” Odyssey project manager David Lehman, of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said in a statement.
“The spacecraft is remarkably healthy, and we have enough fuel to last for several more years.”
Some of Odyssey’s important findings were accomplished within the first year after launch. One suite of instruments found evidence for water ice close to the surface in large areas of Mars. Another investigation measured the natural radiation environment on the way from Earth to Mars and in orbit around Mars, gaining information vital for design of human missions in what has become NASA’s Journey to Mars.
Odyssey has observed Mars go through more than six Martian years. These observations have revealed some seasonal patterns that repeat each year and other seasonal events, such as large dust storms, which differ significantly from year to year.
While preforming its mission, The Odyssey orbiter has also provided a communications relay for the Mars Exploration Rovers , “Spirit”, “Opportunity and “Curiosity”,” transmitting over 95% of the data from the rovers to Earth.
Just as they did for the rovers, scientists and engineers will use Odyssey images and data to identify potential landing sites for future Mars missions.