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This section presents news from the space probe Mars Odyssey. The probe reached Mars in October 2001.
Parts of Mars Odyssey

See also:

Click! The "Mars" section of this site.
Click! Latest Mars exobiology news.
Click! Latest news from the Mars Global Surveyor probe.
This page Latest news from the Mars Odyssey probe (This page).
Click! Latest news from the Beagle 2 / Mars Express probes.
Click! Latest news from the Mars Spirit and Oppoprtunity probes.

News from the Mars Odyssey space probe:

06.24.2006Crater where water ran spotted on Mars.
08.24.2004Mars Odyssey was to be stopped, but it continues til September 2006 at least.
04.22.2004Another lake on Mars.
14.02.2003Mars south pole cap is also made of water ice.
12.10.2002And again probable liquid water on Mars.
12.10.2002Water ice also discovered around South pole.
05.25.2002Another major Mars water announcement coming soon.
04.09.2002The changing image of Mars in the media.
03.05.2002JPL conference confirms abundant water on Mars detected in December.
02.06.2002Mars Odyssey successfully deployed main antenna.
01.12.2002Mars Odyssey reached orbit, aerobreaking successfully achieved.
01.04.2002Only three weeks away from start of studies.
12.05.2001Mars: new evidence of vast amount of water 3 ft below surface in warm regions.
11.26.2001Odyssey encounters unexpected wind vortex.
11.13.2001Mars Odyssey probe: cameras work fine.

Crater where water ran spotted on Mars:

The Mars Odyssey's Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS) team at Arizona State University has presented a paper on the Holden crater on Mars, which shows on a newly released image combining images taken by day and night at infrared wavelengths, abundant layered sediments, channels, and large piles of debris at canyon mouths.

These suggest a long history of deposits by water. Just North of Holden is the older Eberswalde crater, 65 km wide, where scientists have spotted what is surely the remnant of a river delta. On the crater's western floor, "shaped like a head of broccoli", scientists have pointed what is almost certainly the remains of a river delta. The delta displays layered sediments, meandering channels, inverted channels, meander cutoffs, and crosscutting channels - closely resembling what happens on Earth when a river with a winding channel empties into a body of standing water.

The delta grew from streams flowing into Eberswalde through its western rim and the deposits thus likely contain rock samples and sediments from a large drainage area to the west of Eberswalde.

Odyssey to go on until at least 2006:

The Odyssey NASA satellite currently orbiting Mars was originally scheduled to end today, but it is still in good technical health and NASA has received an extra budget to keep it going until at least September 2006, said NASA scientists. Engineers predict the spacecraft will actually survive at least another 10 years.

The spacecraft has returned important discoveries about Mars since its launch in 2001.

Water detection was one of the major Odyssey scientific accomplishments, when in 2002 the probe detected hydrogen atoms in the top meter of soil over much of the planet, with high concentrations of hydrogen from the poles to latitudes of 60 degrees suggesting those regions are ice-rich soils.

Lower hydrogen concentrations in swathes around the planet's equatorial regions suggest the signal comes from minerals that had been exposed to water in the past. These types of hydrates are exactly what NASA's Opportunity rover has seen in surface rocks in 2004.

In July 2004, French ESA scientists used the infrared images to create maps of the network of Martian valleys around Valles Marineris. These valleys have long be thought to have been created by past eruptions of groundwater.

However, Odyssey mission scientist Jeffrey Plaut has said that "there were so many sources, you can't explain them by water coming in from the ground; no terrain has that many springs. The team's conclusion is they had to be caused by the runoff of rain or melting snow."

Another lake on Mars:

The science team of the THEMIS instrument aboard Odyssey used to detect traces of past water, is annoyed with a new image which "is causing us considerable difficulty due to the presence of a structure that resembles a lake located in the center of the crater" on one of their images, published on April 22, 2004 on their website at

The image can be downloaded there or seen as extract below:

Other images which may "considerable difficulty" because they show structures "that resembles a lake" can bee seen in my Mars section.

Water ice also found on surface of Mars near South:

Water ice has been discovered now also in third region of Mars, on the surface near the southern polar cap. Researchers had already found frozen water beneath Martian soil in the southern hemisphere and at the surface of the north pole cap. Until now only frozen carbon dioxide, commonly called dry ice, had been found at the South Pole.

Now it is suggest that the southern perennial cap edge may be surrounded by exposed water ice that extents 1-10 kilometers out of the Southern cap. The research is detailed in the online version of the journal Science.

So far it seems that frozen water is virtually ubiquitous on Mars. Scientists suggest that it has not yet been determined if any of it exists in liquid form, a requirement for life, however, there may be several sources for subsurface liquid water, caused by geothermal activity, or microscopic drops of liquid water at the surface cause by sun reflections on the ground.

Successful extension od sensor-carrying boom:

A 20 feet boom was successfully deployed on Mars on June 4, 2002. The extension of the boom will allow more accurate mapping of the composition of the Red Planet by eliminating interferences between the sensor it carries on its end and the body of the probe.

JPL conference confirms abundant water on Mars:

A press conference at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which manages the Odyssey mission for NASA, has confirmed that signal of hydrogen, one component of water, has been detected in the preliminary data reported in December by the Mars Odyssey spacecraft (see underneath 12.14.2002).

Scientists announced that it indicates that Mars holds vast stores of water ice right near the surface and away from the permanently frozen south polar ice cap, and "that it makes it more possible that life may have once existed on Mars or could still be supported today."

William Boynton, a University of Arizona researcher and principal investigator for the Gamma Ray Spectrometer suite of instruments used to make the discovery said: "There's a lot of ice on Mars," and "We really have a whopping large signal."

He added that the northern hemisphere might contain similar amounts of water ice, but that will not be determined until it is summer there and the large polar cap recedes. The cap's seasonal component is largely carbon dioxide ice and it masks what might be underneath.

Stephen Saunders, an Odyssey project scientist from JPL said: "today's findings are just a glimpse of what's to come" and "For the first time we're seeing elementary chemicals on the surface of Mars."

Mars Odyssey successfully deployed main antenna:

The Mars Odyssey spacecraft successfully extended its main communications antenna, NASA officials said Wednesday.

Engineers received confirmation late Tuesday that the boom holding the 4.3-foot wide dish had deployed.

The spacecraft will use the parabolic antenna to transmit the scientific data it gathers, including images, back to Earth at 110,000 bits per second.

Mars Odyssey in orbit, aerobraking successfully achieved:

JPL at NASA announces on January 12, 2002, the Mars Odyssey spacecraft has reached the optimal orbit for its primary mission of mapping the mineral deposits on the surface of Mars. So far the mission has not had any problems and the spacecraft is operating perfectly.

Odyssey made headlines last month with a highly probable discovery of large amounts of water on Mars in the form of a massive patch of hydrogen within 1 meter of the surface.

Odyssey three weeks away from productive studies:

The Mars Odyssey is three weeks away from beginning the first new study of the planet since Mars Global Surveyor arrived in 1997. The car-size Odyssey is using a stiff, flat solar array to skim the Martian atmosphere in a three-month-long set of maneuvers called aerobraking. The spacecraft began the gambit in October. Flight controllers meet every afternoon to review progress on the delicate task, NASA said. It has worked precisely as planned so far. The aerobraking has slowed Odyssey down, bringing its orbit closer to the circular path needed so instruments on the spacecraft can survey the planet's makeup.

New evidence of water on Mars 3 feet under the surface in warm regions:

Leonard David, Senior Space Writer and Robert Roy Britt, Senior Science Writer have just announced that the Mars Odyssey spacecraft has uncovered preliminary yet tantalizing evidence for water near the surface of Mars and away from the permanently frozen north polar ice cap.

Readers of this site might have been convinced already, and maybe convinced of the presence of at least microbial surviving life on Mars as explained in the Mars section. All scientists already knew there is water ice in the Northern polar cap. Nevertheless, the announcement of this "discovery" is an important one as the scientific community was still divided on the possibility that water might exist on Mars, particularly so near to the surface.

A wide acceptance of the presence of water ice near the surface in warmer regions of the planet will be a remarkable and long-sought finding that would have broad implications in the debate about the presence of life on Mars today, for the search for extraterrestrial life and for the feasibility of human exploration of Mars.

The data, collected during tests of Odyssey's neutron spectrometer, show signs of hydrogen, which may or may not mean there is water. Hydrogen is one component of water but also exists alone and in other substances.

NASA researchers stressed that the findings are preliminary. They aren't sure exactly what the new data tell them, but they were optimistic enough to discuss the research this week at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco.

The detection of hydrogen points to the possibility that there is water ice within 3 feet (1 meter) of the surface, said James Garvin, lead scientist for the Mars Exploration Program at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Particularly telling, is this phrase seen on the web site about the discovery: "Such ice might melt in summer months and would be reachable by robotic or human explorers. It might even support microbial life, as researchers have found on Earth that wherever there is water, there is life."

Even more compelling: "The quantity of hydrogen detected was so startling - suggesting a huge concentration relative to what Feldman saw with a similar instrument on Lunar Prospector, which surveyed the Moon -- that researchers may task Odyssey to begin mapping crustal water ice during the first week January..."

It is also noteworthy that the real science program of the probe is not even started yet, as Odyssey is still in the middle of aerobraking, a task that will be completed around mid-January.

The hydrogen detection was made during the first test of Odyssey's neutron spectrometer, a subsystem of a gamma ray spectrometer instrument. The test pass covered an area from the equator to the north pole. The resolution of the observations were at 100 kilometers or more.

The northern ice cap shrinks in summer to as little as 1,000 kilometers in diameter. In winter, it ranges as far south as 60 degrees latitude. Odyssey detected hydrogen farther south, at 55 degrees. The poles are at 90 degrees and zero represents the equator. "This pass suggested that hydrogen was enriched in a high-latitude region extending from around 55 degrees North to near to the edge of the north polar cap, and that it was not enhanced over the north polar permanent cap," Garvin said. "This suggests, in a most preliminary sense, that if the hydrogen in the northern high latitudes is water, that there is ice in the upper meter or so of this region ... and that it is masked by a carbon dioxide frost cover on the permanent cap."

Just weeks ago, one top Odyssey scientist said the prospects for finding water near the surface of Mars represented a longshot. All that seems to have changed now.

11.26.2001 Aerobraking, vortex of wind:

As the slow aerobreaking process begun, Odyssey has encountered a strange, unexpected vortex of winds over the planet's north polar region. NASA scientists have deduced that the atmosphere is less dense than predicted for that area.

To what degree the newly found vortex alters the tempo of aerobraking is being evaluated by the team of 18 scientists and engineers that provide support of the aerobraking process, using computer generated models.

11.13.2001 First visible light image:

The first visible-light image of Mars taken by the Odyssey spacecraft has been returned to Earth.

The picture, a black-and-white image, is not representative of the sort of photography Odyssey is expected to do starting early next year. But it shows that the craft's camera works properly.

Two pictures were taken Nov. 2 and released Nov. 13. One is an infrared image that shows a large swath of Mars. The other is the visible light image, which provides a close-up view of a portion of the infrared image. Both cameras work from the same light-gathering device.

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This page was last updated on June 24, 2006