MarsNews.com
April 3rd, 2013

Ice Cap to Ice Cap with Mars Odyssey The Planetary Society

On March 23, 2013 the Mars 2001 Odyssey spacecraft completed 50,000 orbits around the Red Planet. If it’s not a mixed metaphor to call a solar-powered robotic orbiter a workhorse, then Mars Odyssey is a serious contender for the title of Workhorse of the Solar System. In December 2010 Odyssey broke the previous record to become the longest-working spacecraft at Mars.
In addition to mapping the planet, Odyssey also serves as a crucial communication link, relaying signals between Earth and several rovers as they land and drive on the Martian surface.
Since the spacecraft entered orbit in October of 2001, the teams managing Odyssey’s thermal emission imaging system have captured nearly 670,000 images in visible and infrared light.

March 28th, 2013

Why a Mars Comet Impact Would be Awesome Discovery News

When Jupiter’s tides ripped Comet Shoemaker–Levy 9 to shreds, only for the icy chunks to succumb to the intense Jovian gravity, ultimately slamming into the gas giant’s atmosphere, mankind was treated to a rare cosmic spectacle (in human timescales at least). That was the first time in modern history that we saw a comet do battle with a planet… and lose.
But next year, astronomers think there’s a chance — albeit a small one — of a neighboring planet getting punched by an icy interplanetary interloper. However, this planet doesn’t have a generously thick atmosphere to soften the blow. Rather than causing bruises in a dense, molecular hydrogen atmosphere, this comet will pass through the atmosphere like it wasn’t even there and hit the planetary surface like a cosmic pile-driver, ripping into the crust.
What’s more, we’d have robotic eyes on the ground and in orbit should the worst happen.

November 6th, 2012

Mars Longevity Champ Switching Computers NASA

NASA’s Mars Odyssey orbiter, already the longest-working spacecraft ever sent to Mars, will switch to some fresh, redundant equipment next week that has not been used since before launch in 2001.
Like many spacecraft, this orbiter carries a pair of redundant main computers, so that a backup is available if one fails. Odyssey’s “A-side” computer and “B-side” computer each have several other redundant subsystems linked to just that computer. The Odyssey team has decided to switch to the B-side computer to begin using the B-side’s inertial measurement unit. This gyroscope-containing mechanism senses changes in the spacecraft’s orientation, providing important information for control of pointing the antenna, solar arrays and instruments.

November 6th, 2012

Monte Vista classroom contributing to Mars Student Imaging Program East Valley Tribune

Christine Hartland’s gifted/self-contained classroom of fifth-graders has been working on a hypothesis about global warming on Mars since the school year began.
As the only class at Kyrene Monte Vista Elementary, and likely the district, in the Mars Student Imaging Program, the students have been doing work that is usually reserved for high school students.
The class came up with their own questions, narrowed them down to one, and began working on collecting real data about pit-like surface holes on Mars’ ground.

October 31st, 2012

Mars rover gets instructions daily from NASA via a network of antennae The Washington Post

We live in a chaos of electromagnetic energy. Visible, infrared and ultraviolet light courses omnidirectionally from the sun. A fraction of it bathes our planet, while some bounces off other planets, moons, comets and meteoroids. The visible light from stars up to 4,000 light-years away can be seen from Earth with the naked eye. With instruments, astronomers can detect gamma rays from stars 13 billion light-years away. Radio waves from remote galaxies help Earth’s official timekeepers monitor our planet’s path around the sun.
Once per day, a minuscule stream of radio waves joins this cacophony, making the 13.8-minute trip from an antenna on Earth to an SUV-size machine parked on the surface of Mars. Those short-lived waves represent our way — our only way — of communicating with Curiosity, the rover that NASA landed on Mars in August.

August 14th, 2012

UCLA scientist discovers plate tectonics on Mars UCLA

For years, many scientists had thought that plate tectonics existed nowhere in our solar system but on Earth. Now, a UCLA scientist has discovered that the geological phenomenon, which involves the movement of huge crustal plates beneath a planet’s surface, also exists on Mars.
“Mars is at a primitive stage of plate tectonics. It gives us a glimpse of how the early Earth may have looked and may help us understand how plate tectonics began on Earth,” said An Yin, a UCLA professor of Earth and space sciences and the sole author of the new research.
Yin made the discovery during his analysis of satellite images from THEMIS (Thermal Emission Imaging System), an instrument on board the Mars Odyssey spacecraft, and from the HIRISE (High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment) camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. He analyzed about 100 satellite images — approximately a dozen were revealing of plate tectonics.

June 19th, 2010

Seventh Graders Find a Cave on Mars NASA

California middle school students using the camera on NASA’s Mars Odyssey orbiter have found lava tubes with one pit that appears to be a skylight to a cave.
The students in science teacher Dennis Mitchell’s class at Evergreen Middle School in Cottonwood, Calif., were examining Martian lava tubes as their project in the Mars Student Imaging Program offered by NASA and Arizona State University. Students in this program develop a geological question, then target a Mars-orbiting camera to take an image that helps answer the question.
Mars Odyssey has been orbiting the Red Planet since 2001, returning data and images of the Martian surface and providing relay communications service for the twin Mars rovers, Spirit and Opportunity.

June 19th, 2010

iPhone app delivers daily ASU Mars camera images ASU News

Feel a buzz in your pocket? That’s Mars calling your iPhone.
Thanks to a new — and free — iPhone app, users can have images of Mars delivered daily to their device. The images come from an Arizona State University-designed camera on-board NASA’s Mars Odyssey orbiter, and they include every kind of feature there is on the Red Planet.
The iPhone app is available through the iTunes website.

December 2nd, 2009

Orbiter Puts Itself Into Safe Standby NASA

NASA’s Mars Odyssey orbiter put itself into a safe standby mode on Saturday, Nov. 28, and the team operating the spacecraft has begun implementing careful steps designed to resume Odyssey’s science and relay operations within about a week.
Engineers have diagnosed the cause of the Nov. 28 event as the spacecraft’s proper response to a memory error with a known source. The likely cause is an upset in the orbiter’s “memory error external bus,” as was the case with a similar event in June 2008.
In safe mode over the weekend, Odyssey remained in communication with ground controllers and maintained healthy temperatures and power. To clear the memory error, the team commanded Odyssey today to perform a cold reboot of the orbiter’s onboard computer. The spacecraft reported that the reboot had been completed successfully.

June 22nd, 2009

Mapping Mars In Infrared electronic design

The Mars Odyssey mission may not be the latest or most glamorous Martian explorer, but it’s the longest-running, and it does boast an impressive thermal imaging system. Orbiting the planet as it does, Odyssey’s scientific packages continue to provide a very rich picture of the fourth planet’s aerology. Last September 30, Odyssey was directed to alter its orbit to gain even better sensitivity for its infrared mineral mapping of Martian minerals. The adjustment will allow THEMIS to look down at sites in mid-afternoon, rather than late afternoon, collecting infrared radiation when the rocks are warmer. Previously, its orbit was a compromise between THEMIS and the mission’s Gamma Ray Spectrometer. Part of the Gamma Ray Spectrometer is being turned off. In addition to the increase in time, THEMIS will now occasionally be aimed obliquely, rather than straight down, allowing the team to do some 3D imaging.