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.
June 22nd, 2009