This image shows both a visible and a thermal infrared image taken by the thermal emission imaging system on NASA's 2001 Mars Odyssey spacecraft on November 2, 2001. The visible wavelength image, shown on the right in black and white, was obtained using one of the instrument's five visible filters. The spacecraft was approximately 22,000 kilometers (about 13,600 miles) above Mars looking down toward the south pole when this image was taken. The thermal infrared image, center, shows the temperature of the surface in color. The circular feature seen in blue is the extremely cold Martian south polar ice cap. The instrument measured a temperature of minus 120 degrees Celsius (minus 184 degrees Fahrenheit) at this ice cap.
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NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory/Arizona State University

Mars Odyssey

The Mars Odyssey was launched April 7, 2001, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. After a six-month, 285 million-mile journey, the Odyssey arrived at Mars on October 24, 2001 (02:30 Universal Time). The Odyssey is in its aerobraking phase right now. After about 3 months of aerobraking, the final science orbit should be achieved and the real science of the mission will start!

The spacecraft is carrying a gamma ray spectrometer (GRS). The gamma ray spectrometer was inherited from the lost Mars Observer mission. The GRS onboard the Mars Odyssey will help detect the presence of water on the surface of Mars. The GRS will also measure the abundance and distribution of about 20 primary elements of the periodic table, including silicon, oxygen, iron, magnesium, potassium, aluminum, calcium, sulfur, and carbon at the surface of Mars.

Other instruments onboard the Odyssey include the Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS) and the Mars Radiation Environment Experiment (MARIE). MARIE will investigate the amount of radiation present at and around Mars. This would be pertinent information to know if humans were to colonize Mars. THEMIS is a camera system that will study the Martian surface in both visible and infrared light and will help determine what minerals are present. It also will map landscapes on Mars at resolutions comparable to that of NASA's Landsat Earth observing satellite.

Other than our Moon, Mars has attracted more spacecraft than any other object in the solar system. Of course, no other solar system object has been as daunting to visit. Of the 30 missions sent to Mars by three countries over 40 years, less than one-third have been successful.

Last modified December 19, 2001 by Jennifer Bergman.

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