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15 Years at Mars

October 24, 2016

Fifteen years ago, NASA needed a hit. Its previous two missions to Mars had failed — both of them as they were arriving at the Red Planet. So it prepared the next mission with extra care, and sent on its way on April 11th., 2001

The craft was named 2001 Mars Odyssey — a tribute to Arthur C. Clarke, author of “2001: A Space Odyssey.” And like most of Clarke’s books, Mars Odyssey was a big success. It entered orbit around Mars on October 23rd. And 15 years later, it’s still going. It’s the longest-operating spacecraft not only at Mars, but at any body in the solar system other than Earth.

Among its many accomplishments, Odyssey has mapped the chemical and mineral composition of the entire Martian surface. It also discovered evidence of vast amounts of ice just below the surface, and evidence of where liquid water once pooled on the surface. And it found the first caves ever seen on Mars — possible places for future missions to look for microscopic life.

Odyssey has also served as a relay station for several Mars landers and rovers.

And its mission isn’t over. Even though it’s had some system failures, it has enough fuel to keep going for a while. So barring any unexpected problems, Mars Odyssey could add several more years to its record-breaking reconnaissance of the Red Planet.


Script by Damond Benningfield

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