Illustration of of Mars Odyssey

NASA's 2001 Mars Odyssey spacecraft took its first thermal infrared temperature image of Mars at approximately 1300 Universal time (5 a.m. Pacific time) today. The imaging team at Arizona State University, Tempe will process the data over the next couple of days and hopes to release the image later this week. This morning's image is part of the calibration process for the thermal emission imaging system and is designed to help determine that the imaging system is working properly. The main science mapping mission is expected to begin in early February 2002.

Flight controllers report the aerobraking phase is proceeding as planned. The first aerobraking pass, when the spacecraft slowly dips into the martian atmosphere to slow itself down, began on schedule last Friday night. Today, Odyssey is in its ninth pass around Mars. During its closest approach, the spacecraft is 128 kilometers (nearly 80 miles) above the surface and during its farthest point is 27,000 kilometers (nearly 17,000 miles) away from Mars. Currently, Odyssey is in an elliptical orbit and aerobraking will circularize its path during the next three months.

Following the orbit insertion last week, scientists turned on the high-energy neutron detector and the neutron spectrometer to check out and validate the instruments during the course of three orbits. Both instruments functioned well. Neutrons were successfully measured during each close pass by the planet. Those instruments have since been turned off.

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, Texas, operate the science instruments. Lockheed Martin Astronautics, Denver, Colo., 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. NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., will provide aerobraking support to JPL's navigation team during mission operations.

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