Orbiter completes maneuver to prepare for comet flyby

August 7, 2014
NASA's Mars Odyssey spacecraft passes above Mars' south pole in this artist's concept illustration. Credit: NASA/JPL

(Phys.org) —NASA's Mars Odyssey spacecraft has successfully adjusted the timing of its orbit around Mars as a defensive precaution for a comet's close flyby of Mars on Oct. 19, 2014.

The orbiter fired thrusters for five and a half seconds on Tuesday, Aug. 5. The maneuver was calculated to place the orbiter behind Mars during the half hour on the flyby date when released from comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring are most likely to reach Mars. The nucleus of the comet will miss Mars by about one-third of the distance between Earth and Earth's moon.

"The modeling predictions for comet Siding Spring suggest a dust-particle impact would not be likely in any case, but this maneuver has given us an added protection," said Mars Odyssey Project Manager David Lehman of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California. "Those dust particles will be traveling so fast that even one hit could end our mission."

The Tuesday maneuver did not change the shape of Odyssey's orbit, but tweaked the timing. The spacecraft is in a near-polar orbit, circling Mars about once every two hours. The maneuver used four trajectory-correction thrusters, which each provide about 5 pounds (22 newtons) of force. It consumed less than one percent of the orbiter's remaining fuel.

Mars Odyssey has worked at the Red Planet longer than any other Mars mission in history. NASA launched the spacecraft on April 7, 2001, and Odyssey arrived at Mars Oct. 24, 2001. Besides conducting its own scientific observations, the mission provides a communication relay for robots on the Martian surface.

Explore further: NASA Mars spacecraft prepare for close comet flyby

Related Stories

NASA Mars spacecraft prepare for close comet flyby

July 26, 2014

NASA is taking steps to protect its Mars orbiters, while preserving opportunities to gather valuable scientific data, as Comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring heads toward a close flyby of Mars on Oct. 19.

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.

NASA radio delivered for Europe's 2016 Mars orbiter

July 8, 2014

(Phys.org) —The first of two NASA Electra radios that will fly aboard the European Space Agency's next mission to Mars has been delivered for installation onto the ESA ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO).

Recommended for you

Inventing tools for detecting life elsewhere

March 30, 2017

Recently, astronomers announced the discovery that a star called TRAPPIST-1 is orbited by seven Earth-size planets. Three of the planets reside in the "habitable zone," the region around a star where liquid water is most likely ...

SpaceX poised to launch first recycled rocket

March 30, 2017

SpaceX is poised to launch its first recycled rocket on Thursday, using a booster that sent food and supplies to the astronauts living at the International Space Station in April.

0 comments

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.