Flight controllers for NASA's 2001 Mars Odyssey mission report the spacecraft is in excellent health and is in a looping orbit around Mars of 18 hours and 36 minutes.
"Odyssey flawlessly achieved last night's one-time critical event of Mars orbit insertion. Hundreds and hundreds of things had to go right, and they did," said Matt Landano, Mars Odyssey project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "We are all excited about our success and I am proud of all the members of our team."
The navigation proved to be equally precise. "We were aiming for a point 300 kilometers (186.5 miles) above Mars and we hit that point within one kilometer (.6 miles)," reports Bob Mase, the Mars Odyssey lead navigator at JPL. "Because of the excellent main engine burn, we will not need to do any more maneuvers to adjust the orbit before we begin aerobraking on Friday."
In the weeks and months ahead, the spacecraft will be literally surfing the waves of the martian atmosphere, in a process called aerobraking, which will reduce the long elliptical orbit into a shorter, 2-hour circular orbit of approximately 400 kilometers (about 250 miles) altitude.
This morning, the team turned on the electronics for the gamma ray spectrometer subsystem and began taking data with the high-energy neutron detector and the neutron spectrometer instruments. These detectors may help scientists locate water near the surface of Mars, if it exists.
On Sunday, Oct. 28, scientists will take the first picture with the thermal emission imaging system. That image is expected to be a wide-angle view of the southern hemisphere taken when Odyssey is farthest away from Mars. The primary science mission will begin in January 2002.
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.