NASA’s Mars Odyssey spacecraft launched 20 years ago on April 7, has made it the oldest spacecraft still working at the Red Planet. The orbiter, which takes its name from Arthur C. Clarke’s classic sci-fi novel “2001: A Space Odyssey”, was sent to map the composition of the Martian surface in 2021 .
Project Scientist Jeffrey Plaut of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California said that before Odyssey, we didn’t know where water was stored on the planet. The feasibility of humans traveling to Mars was also the focus of an instrument aboard Odyssey that measured how much space radiation astronauts would have to contend with before it stopped working in 2003.
The most complete global maps of Mars were made using Odyssey’s infrared camera, called the Thermal Emission Imaging System, or THEMIS.