Today Thursday, it marks 15 years since the NASA’s Mars Odyssey mission was launched from Cape Canaveral in 2001, giving scientists crucial data on Mars’ astonishing features. NASA launched the Mars Odyssey orbiter on April 7, 2001, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, with the goal of reaching the red planet’s surface in order to further explore Mars, and oversee the data from all rovers there.
Among the rovers Odyssey is watching over, there are the Opportunity, Spirit and Curiosity rovers. After only six months from venturing from Earth to Mars, Odyssey was already on the red giant’s orbit and ready to land. Impressively enough, engineers at NASA were able to make several flybys over Mars before setting up the ideal orbit for the orbiter to map the red planet effectively.
And although the mission was as ambitious as it was difficult to complete, the Odyssey didn’t experienced any setbacks during the mission. It’s worth mentioning the dedication NASA put into the development of the orbiter launched back in 2001, as the Odyssey is still operational 15 years after it was set to explore Mars.
David Lehman from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California claims the Odyssey is a record-breaking orbiter considering it has worked non-stop over a decade. Lehman, who is also Odyssey’s project manager describes the spacecraft as being in good shape and adds the orbiter has plenty of fuel to keep up the good work for years to come.
The orbiter was named 2001 Mars Odyssey for the famed sci-fi author Arthur C. Clarke. Clarke gained worldwide fame for his novel ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’. Now, listing the entire Odyssey’s achievements in the past 15 years would be a stretch, considering it has accomplished much more than it was expected of the orbiter.
Odyssey’s top achievements so far
Yet one of the greatest discoveries was the evidence of water ice close to Mars’ surface in large areas. Also, the Odyssey gave astronomers breathtaking images of the red planet’s surface, thanks to months of orbiting Mars in order to get a detailed mapping of the planet.
Additionally, the spacecraft launched 15 years ago has witnessed over six full changes of Martian seasons, giving researchers sufficient data to determine Mars’ weather patterns and how seasons can differ from previous one in comparison to previous years.
Remarkably enough for the Odyssey orbiter, it even opened the way for future journeys into Mars with human crews onboard, as the orbiter measured radiation levels before getting to the planet. A significant factor if NASA plans to send astronauts to the red giant in the near future.
“Every day for five years, Odysseys has been extending its record for how long a spacecraft can keep working on Mars,” said Lehman on a statement released for its 15th anniversary. “The spacecraft is remarkably healthy, and we have enough fuel to last for several more years.”