Travelling at a maximum speed of 13,210 miles per hour, the Mars Odyssey, a mission that is still ongoing to today’s date, is a special spacecraft part of NASA’s Mars Exploration Program. It is a very unique spacecraft with a great purpose and many amazing contributions. The Mars Odyssey was launched on April 7, 2011. The spacecraft’s primary mission was to discover water and shallow buried ice on Mars. In addition, the mission of the Mars Odyssey spacecraft also included the objective to study the radiation environment on Mars and its atmosphere as a whole. Making its arrival on Mars on October 24, 2001, the Mars Odyssey is a unique spacecraft mission with a rich history and with several great scientific contributions.
On April 7, 2011, the Mars Odyssey was launched in Cape Canaveral from a Delta II launch vehicle. The spacecraft took a time period of 76 days to get close to Mars. As the Mars Odyssey approached Mars, aerobraking was performed until the spacecraft reached a 2 hour science orbit. Aerobraking is a technique that was utilized by the Mars Odyssey that entailed the use of friction in order to lower the the spacecraft’s orbit. If the technique of aerobraking wouldn’t have been used, then the spacecraft would have had no other choice but to carry a larger amount of fuel. The primary mission of the Mars Odyssey was to see whether or not the speculations of scientists about Mars’ atmosphere were valid or not. Scientists hypothesized that Mars’ atmosphere was composed of a mixture of rock, soil, and icy material. Although they believed that information to be true, they did not know much more about Mars’ exact composition, so they launched Mars Odyssey in hope of finding out more information (Overview – Mars Odyssey). In addition, the spacecraft was launched to “determine whether life ever arose on Mars, characterize the climate of Mars, characterize the geology of Mars, and prepare for human exploration” (Howell). Overall, the Mars Odyssey had a mission to answer many unanswered questions and speculations. Furthermore, the Mars Odyssey cost a total of 297 million dollars. The Mars Odyssey is very special because it “has been in space for 15 years, and has been returning science data from Mars since February of 2002” (A new angle on Mars for Mars Odyssey). The first primary accomplishment was determining whether there was ever life on Mars. Although the spacecraft did not have instruments that directly predicted this, the spacecraft had technology that had the ability to determine whether or not the environment and the atmosphere on Mars was suitable for life. The Mars Odyssey was the first aircraft to be suited to be able to find evidence of water that was at the surface. Secondly, the Mars Odyssey came to the conclusion that Mars had a cold and thin atmosphere, which does not allow it to contain liquid water on the surface. Furthermore, the Mars Odyssey concluded that water is trapped underneath the surface of Mars in the form of ice. Through this, there was also a better understanding of the role of water in the evolution of the martian climate. Thirdly, the spacecraft led to a better understanding of the geology of Mars, which also in turn led to the potential if there was life on Mars, or if there could possibly be in the future. Lastly, the spacecraft allowed for the preparation for human exploration. Through the Mars Radiation Environment Experiment, the levels of radiation were examined and used to determine if the levels could potentially harm individuals who directly explored Mars. The majority of these discoveries were made through Thermal Emission Imaging System, Gamma Ray Spectrometer, and the Mars Radiation Environment Experiment.
In conclusion, the Mars Odyssey is a mission that has not quite ended. The Mars Odyssey spacecraft is still active on Mars today. The mission has made several great contributions to future missions and to science in general. I am so happy that I was given the opportunity to write this research paper and learn about the Mars Odyssey. I was able to gain insight on the mission and even learn about new specific scientific technology methods that I did not know about previously. What shocked me the most about the Mars Odyssey was the total cost of the mission, 297 million dollars. I would’ve never imagined that the mission could’ve cost 297 million dollars. However, I believe that the mission did have many great contributions and although the cost does seem astronomically high, the money was well worth spent on this mission. I believe that the cost was well worth it because it discovered the composition of Mars, led to preparation for human exploration, and influenced future missions.
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