BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Arabic Spanish Russian Chinese Welsh
BBCi CATEGORIES   TV   RADIO   COMMUNICATE   WHERE I LIVE   INDEX    SEARCH 

BBC NEWS
 You are in: Sci/Tech
Front Page 
World 
UK 
UK Politics 
Business 
Sci/Tech 
Health 
Education 
Entertainment 
Talking Point 
In Depth 
AudioVideo 


Commonwealth Games 2002

BBC Sport

BBC Weather

SERVICES 
Wednesday, 24 October, 2001, 09:09 GMT 10:09 UK
Mars Odyssey: The facts

A space craft has entered the orbit of Mars, where it will search for signs of water on the Red Planet. BBC News Online science editor Dr David Whitehouse explains the facts of the mission.

Why is it called 2001 Mars Odyssey?

It was inspired by 2001: A Space Odyssey, the movie written by Arthur C Clarke and Stanley Kubrick, a movie that had nothing to do with Mars.

How far has it travelled to get to Mars?

The craft has travelled 460 million km (286 million miles) in six and a half months.

How big is it and how much did it cost?

The 725 kg (1,598 pound) unmanned satellite is 2.1 metres (7.2 feet) long, 1.7 m (5.6 feet) tall and 2.6 m (8.5 feet) wide. It cost $297 million (209 million).

What happens now the probe has entered the orbit of Mars?

The probe will gradually settle into a circular orbit at an altitude of some 400 kilometres (250 miles) above the Martian surface. The adjustment happens by a series of delicate breaking manoeuvres, called aerobraking.

What scientific observations will it carry out?

The probe is carrying a gamma ray spectrometer, which includes a high-energy neutron detector, as well as a thermal-emission imaging system and a Martian radiation environment experiment. It will use these instruments to carry out a chemical and mineralogical survey of the planet. It will also look for hidden reservoirs of water and assess radiation risks to future human missions. Mars Odyssey is expected to start mapping the surface of Mars in January.

How long is the mission?

Mars Odyssey's primary scientific mission lasts from January 2002 to July 2004 but if it remains in good order it would be extended.

The spacecraft also will serve as a communications relay for US and international spacecraft in 2003 and 2004.

What other missions are planned?

Twin American surface rovers are planned for 2004 as well as a British lander called Beagle 2, which is set to land on the planet in next three years. Further Mars orbiters are planned for after that and then, hopefully, a sample return mission.

See also:

23 Oct 01 | Sci/Tech
Moment of truth for Mars voyage
Links to more Sci/Tech stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Sci/Tech stories