Learn about the Odyssey spacecraft that mapped Mars


This week marks the 20th anniversary of the launch of NASA's Mars Odyssey spacecraft, which has been orbiting Mars since 2002. This makes it the longest-lived spacecraft ever sent to Mars, and continues its work in monitoring the surface of Mars, according to Digital Trends.

One of Odyssey's major discoveries was the discovery of subsurface ice on the surface of Mars, the discovery of ice beneath the shallow surface of the planet, and these readings were later confirmed by the Phoenix probe.

Before Odyssey, we did not know where this water was stored on the planet, said project scientist Geoffrey Plott of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, which is leading the Odyssey mission, Phoenix landing.

Determining the location of ice on Mars is pivotal for two reasons, first, to understand the history of water on the planet and thus whether it can support life at some point, and second, to enable future inhabited missions to the planet.

Other accomplishments that Odyssey was a part of include uncovering the composition of Mars, by creating a global map using the THEMIS instrument, this not only created a map of the surface, but also provide information about surface components such as rocks, sand, or dust.

Orbiter data has also been used to assist in selecting landing sites for the Mars missions. THEMIS has identified hazards such as rocks to avoid, and its ice maps can be used to determine a landing site for the ultimate manned mission.

Philip Christensen, president of THEMIS at Arizona State University, said, in the past 40 years, Mars has moved from a red point in the sky to a world we know almost like ours. Mars Odyssey and THEMIS played a major role in this transformation and it was a great honor to have Be part of Mars exploration.

Odyssey is still operational and has enough propellant until 2025, and it is expected to continue its work monitoring the planet's surface.

Christensen said, Mars, is a very dynamic and changing place so we hope THEMIS and Odyssey will continue to observe the planet for many years to come. Exploration always has surprises, so even after 20 years, we don't really know what to expect in every photo we take.

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