Artist's concept of NASA's Mars Odyssey spacecraft
Artist's concept of NASA's Mars Odyssey spacecraft

Flight controllers for NASA's Mars Odyssey spacecraft report the martian radiation environment experiment began gathering science data today after their troubleshooting efforts successfully reestablished communications with the instrument.

Engineers have been working since late February, trying a variety of techniques to communicate with the instrument, which stopped working in August. The results of their tests indicate the problem may be related to a memory error in the onboard software of the radiation instrument.

"This is very exciting. We have been carefully working this issue, and establishing communication means we now have the entire payload working," said Roger Gibbs, Odyssey's project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

The team established initial communication with the instrument late last week and has spent several days evaluating its health. Controllers returned the radiation monitor to its science collection mode this afternoon.

Odyssey's camera system and gamma ray spectrometer suite are continuing to collect data and are working well. Science team members reported this week that the camera's infrared and visible image data are providing 'new eyes' to see the makeup of martian surface materials. Current targets for the camera include the candidate landing sites for the twin 2003 Mars exploration rovers. The neutron detectors in the gamma ray spectrometer suite are refining the detail in maps of near-surface hydrogen and are tracking changes in the surface as the martian northern winter comes to an end.

JPL manages the 2001 Mars Odyssey mission for NASA's Office of Space Science, Washington, D.C. Principal investigators at Arizona State University in Tempe, the University of Arizona in Tucson, and NASA's Johnson Space Center, Houston, operate the science instruments. Additional science investigators are located at the Russian Space Research Institute and Los Alamos National Laboratories, New Mexico. Lockheed Martin Astronautics, Denver, is the prime contractor for the project, and developed and built the orbiter. Mission operations are conducted jointly from Lockheed Martin and from JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

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