Mars Odyssey spacecraft

Mars Odyssey spacecraft

Courtesy of NASA/JPL

Mars Odyssey orbits Mars to map the distribution of elements and detect radiation on the Martian surface. At the end of a long boom arm extending out from the spacecraft is a gamma ray spectrometer, one of the instruments used to collect scientific data.

April 7, 2001

October 24, 2001

End of Mission
Still operating

Map the amount and distribution of elements and minerals that make up the Martian surface. Record the radiation environment in low-Mars orbit to determine the radiation-related risk to humans who might explore in the future.

Measurements by Odyssey have enabled scientists to create maps of minerals and chemical elements and identify regions with buried water ice. Images that measure the surface temperature have provided spectacular views of Martian topography. Radiation in low-Mars orbit is twice that in low-Earth orbit. This is an essential piece of information for eventual human exploration because of its potential health effects. Maps of hydrogen distribution led scientists to discover vast amounts of water ice in the polar regions buried just beneath the surface. Data shows evidence of salt deposits where water once was abundant and where evidence might exist of possible Martian life. This mission also discovered entrances to seven possible caves on the slopes of a Martian volcano. These are of interest as potential underground habitat for microbial life.