Mars Odyssey orbiter repositioned to phone home Mars landing

July 25, 2012
NASA's Mars Odyssey spacecraft passes above Mars' south pole in this artist's concept. The spacecraft has been orbiting Mars since October 24, 2001. Image credit: NASA/JPL

(Phys.org) -- NASA's Mars Odyssey spacecraft has successfully adjusted its orbital location to be in a better position to provide prompt confirmation of the August landing of the Curiosity rover.

NASA's spacecraft carrying Curiosity can send limited information directly to Earth as it enters Mars' atmosphere. Before the landing, Earth will set below the Martian horizon from the descending spacecraft's perspective, ending that direct route of communication. Odyssey will help to speed up the indirect .

NASA reported during a July 16 news conference that Odyssey, which originally was planned to provide a near-real-time communication link with Curiosity, had entered safe mode July 11. This situation would have affected communication operations, but not the rover's landing. Without a repositioning maneuver, Odyssey would have arrived over the landing area about two minutes after Curiosity landed.

A spacecraft thruster burn Tuesday, July 24, lasting about six seconds has nudged Odyssey about six minutes ahead in its orbit. Odyssey is now operating normally, and confirmation of Curiosity's landing is expected to reach Earth at about 10:31 p.m. PDT on Aug. 5 (early Aug. 6, EDT and Universal Time), as originally planned.

"Information we are receiving indicates the maneuver has completed as planned," said Mars Odyssey Project Manager Gaylon McSmith of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. "Odyssey has been working at Mars longer than any other spacecraft, so it is appropriate that it has a special role in supporting the newest arrival."

Two other Mars orbiters, NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and the 's , also will be in position to receive radio transmissions from the Mars Science Laboratory during its descent. However, they will be recording information for later playback, not relaying it immediately, as only Odyssey can.

Odyssey arrived at Mars in 2001. Besides conducting its own scientific observations, it has served as a communication relay for NASA's Spirit and Opportunity Mars rovers and the Phoenix lander on the Martian surface. NASA plans to use Odyssey and the as communication relays for Curiosity during that rover's two-year prime mission on Mars.

Explore further: Orbiter enters, then exits, standby safe mode

Related Stories

Orbiter enters, then exits, standby safe mode

July 16, 2012

(Phys.org) -- NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter experienced about 21 hours in a reduced-activity precautionary status ending at about 10 a.m. PDT (1 p.m. EDT) on Thursday, July 12.

Mars Odyssey orbiter out of precautionary 'safe mode'

June 20, 2012

(Phys.org) -- NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter has been taken out of a protective status called safe mode. Remaining steps toward resuming all normal spacecraft activities will probably be completed by next week.

Test of spare wheel puts Orbiter on path to recovery

June 15, 2012

(Phys.org) -- In a step toward returning NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter to full service, mission controllers have tested a spare reaction wheel on the spacecraft for potential use with two other reaction wheels in adjusting ...

NASA's Odyssey spacecraft sets exploration record on Mars

December 16, 2010

NASA's Mars Odyssey, which launched in 2001, will break the record Wednesday for longest-serving spacecraft at the Red Planet. The probe begins its 3,340th day in Martian orbit at 5:55 p.m. PST (8:55 p.m. EST) on Wednesday ...

Recommended for you

Hubble catches a transformation in the Virgo constellation

December 9, 2016

The constellation of Virgo (The Virgin) is especially rich in galaxies, due in part to the presence of a massive and gravitationally-bound collection of over 1300 galaxies called the Virgo Cluster. One particular member of ...

Khatyrka meteorite found to have third quasicrystal

December 9, 2016

(Phys.org)—A small team of researchers from the U.S. and Italy has found evidence of a naturally formed quasicrystal in a sample obtained from the Khatyrka meteorite. In their paper published in the journal Scientific Reports, ...

Scientists sweep stodgy stature from Saturn's C ring

December 9, 2016

As a cosmic dust magnet, Saturn's C ring gives away its youth. Once thought formed in an older, primordial era, the ring may be but a mere babe – less than 100 million years old, according to Cornell-led astronomers in ...

2 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

gmurphy
5 / 5 (3) Jul 25, 2012
It'd be great if they could get a picture of the lander descending, like they for Phoenix in 2008.
yyz
5 / 5 (2) Jul 25, 2012
@gmurphy

Agreed. Although the viewing angle won't be as favorable (MRO will be looking nearly straight down at Curiosity as opposed to the oblique view of the Phoenix landing), the size of Curiosity's parachute, the largest ever used on Mars, should cover four times as many pixels as Phoenix' did.

Video of the trajectories of MRO/Curiosity:

http://www.youtub...BDnJNW-8

Phoenix spotted by MRO/HiRISE against Heimdall crater:

https://planetary...full.jpg

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.