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Space Science

Mars Odyssey Begins Overtime 122

Posted by timothy
from the time-and-a-half dept.
thhamm writes "NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter begins working overtime today after completing a prime mission that discovered vast supplies of frozen water, ran a safety check for future astronauts, and mapped surface textures and minerals all over Mars, among other feats. An extended Mission until 2006 has been approved, and I hope it will last that long, maybe doing more safety checks for astronauts :)"
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Mars Odyssey Begins Overtime

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  • by noselasd (594905) on Thursday August 26, 2004 @05:37AM (#10076346)
    Mars Rovers != Mars Odyssey.

    Ice on Mars [nasa.gov]
    Odyssey Mission to Mars [space.com]
  • by dragonp12 (798787) on Thursday August 26, 2004 @05:38AM (#10076348)
    http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov/newsroom/pressrelea ses/20040302a.html [nasa.gov]

    There's a link to a water on Mars press release from a few months back.

  • by thhamm (764787) on Thursday August 26, 2004 @05:49AM (#10076372)
    they tried this already, with the Mars Polar Lander [nasa.gov]. but they lost it.

    dont know if they will try again though.
  • by snake_dad (311844) on Thursday August 26, 2004 @05:50AM (#10076375) Homepage Journal
    The fact that Mars has frozen water is one of the biggest discoveries of Odyssey. That is great to know, but it doesn't tell you much, only that a lot of water is currently on Mars in a frozen state.

    The rovers' task is to find out how exactly that water influenced Mars in the past (and maybe even present). Long lasting huge oceans? Short wet periods? Or maybe only moist periods, not really wet at all? These science results will then be used to give a future mission a better chance of finding life, or proof of past life. If there ever was life on Mars, of course.

  • by noselasd (594905) on Thursday August 26, 2004 @06:25AM (#10076453)
    Indeed, though most water were found on the poles, wheras the rovers
    are not that far from the equator.
  • yay for Odyssey! (Score:5, Informative)

    by Guano_Jim (157555) on Thursday August 26, 2004 @06:38AM (#10076490)
    Odyssey was launched in 2001... here's the mission timeline [nasa.gov] for more details.

    The cute little bugger looks like this. [vnexpress.net]

  • Re:Working Overtime? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Muad'Dave (255648) on Thursday August 26, 2004 @08:13AM (#10076755) Homepage

    Here's a link [amsat.org] to an amateur satellite launched in 1974 that is still partially functioning!

  • by kippy (416183) on Thursday August 26, 2004 @09:13AM (#10077119)
    According to Chris McKay from NASA they will be. He's a big terraforming proponent and he outlined a near future mission in which a rover will scoop up some dirt into a bell jar, and they will attempt to grow a mustard plant. He said they'll probably have to do it on the moon first for political reasons but it's on the works.

    I don't have a link of anything but he gave this talk at the Mars Soceity's convention last week.
  • by peter303 (12292) on Thursday August 26, 2004 @09:48AM (#10077400)
    Both the Jupiter Gallileo and Venus Magellan projects went triple their design lifespans. However, they could have gone even longer, had NASA not canned them. Both were getting "creaky": insufficient propellant to do much, and instruments breaking down. Plus it costs a fair amount of money- up to 30% of the original mission cost per year- for a slice of the Deep Space Network and scientist to run and analyze the data.
    We'll probably see this debate about the Mars Rovers if they survive into 2005. Both are already 2.5x their design lifetimes, have some instrument failures (a sick wheel motor, a dead spectrograph), and are tying up a couple hundred engineer and scientists full time.
  • by snake_dad (311844) on Thursday August 26, 2004 @09:52AM (#10077434) Homepage Journal
    No, this is the lander where the cause of the crash was thought to be "spurious interrrupts" from the sensors in the landing legs, during landing. Apparently that made MPL conclude that it was already on the ground, and it cut off its engine. Boom. Also adding to the accident was bad management in the project, and too many inexperienced people on the team.
  • Re:Working Overtime? (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 26, 2004 @11:05AM (#10078234)
    See. That's what was wrong with TNG. It was too unrealistic. Any good engineer already knows that you need to pad the numbers.
  • by kippy (416183) on Thursday August 26, 2004 @12:18PM (#10079304)
    If you've read the book, you'll remember that the radiation in transit is far less dangerous than smoking. One quote of his I like is that if you put smokers on a trip to Mars, their chances of cancer go down.

    Also, by designing the craft such that the water and whatnot are on the outside you can mitigate the solar wind and cosmic ray threat. For solar flares, a small coffin/safehouse can be used for a few hours. One thing he didn't mention but that could be used is to generate a baby magnetic field to bounce solar wind.

    it's just an engineering problem and not insurmountable at all.
  • by ToshiroOC (805867) on Thursday August 26, 2004 @12:56PM (#10079817)
    The Deep Space Network is probably one of the largest continuing costs of any mission, including the rovers. The rovers need the 70m antennae at Canberra/Madrid/Goldstone to do direct-to-earth low-bandwidth links, and running those 70m antennae is extremely expensive - and it comes out of the project's pockets. Fortunately, Odyssey has been working beautifully as a telecom relay, getting high bandwidth links to the rovers, and then getting a high bandwidth link DTE to send several dozen megabits of data back at a time. MEX (the ESA satellite) was used to send back some data earlier, too, because both MEX and MER (the rovers) use the same Proximity-1 connection protocol. Eventually, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which launches in a year, will be added to the set of potential telecom links, and several years down the line the Mars Telecom Orbiter should provide a very high speed connection back to earth.

    All of this is building up a network between Mars and Earth that eventually should be able to support even the most data-intensive *cough* missions.

    One of the cooler technologies being proposed now are line-of-sight laser comms - cheaper because you don't need a 210' dish for each link, and potentially faster. MTO is probably going to include these optical connections, though I don't know if they will be used for DTE connects as well as local connects.
  • by Polyzinha (518538) on Thursday August 26, 2004 @02:06PM (#10080649)
    They're going to try for a high-latitude landing again, but this time in the northern hemisphere. The Mars Phoenix lander is scheduled for 2008. You can read more about it here:
    http://phoenix.lpl.arizona.edu/objectives.php [arizona.edu]
  • "Other feats" (Score:3, Informative)

    by ScottMaxwell (108831) on Thursday August 26, 2004 @02:38PM (#10080978) Homepage
    Odyssey [nasa.gov] has been a great success in its own right, as well as providing critical support for MER. One of those "other feats" mentioned in the writeup included being the relay satellite for something like 90% of the Mars Exploration Rover downlink.

    It costs us a lot less energy to just uplink the data from MER to ODY and let them send it back to Earth than for us to send it all the way back to Earth directly. The energy we save that way, we can spend on driving around, doing science, and staying warm. ODY did such a great job relaying data for us that it soon became our preferred communication mode -- we haven't returned any significant amount of data through another path for months. (Though we did recently test that we can also return data via ESA's Mars Express [esa.int].)

    To put it another way, without ODY, we'd have only about 10% of the pretty pictures you can find at the MER home page [nasa.gov].

    So on behalf of all of us MERfolk: thanks, and congratulations, Odyssey!

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