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Donald Savage
Headquarters, Washington, DC March 19, 2001
(Phone: 202/358-1547)

Mary Hardin
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA
(Phone: 818/354-0344)

RELEASE: 01-46


     When NASA's 2001 Mars Odyssey launches in April to
explore the fourth planet from the Sun, it will carry a suite
of scientific instruments designed to tell us what makes up
the Martian surface, and provide vital information about
potential radiation hazards for future human explorers.

"The launch of 2001 Mars Odyssey represents a milestone in our
exploration of Mars -- the first launch in our restructured
Mars Exploration Program we announced last October," said Dr.
Ed Weiler, Associate Administrator for Space Science, NASA
Headquarters, Washington, DC. "Mars continues to surprise us
at every turn. We expect Odyssey to remove some of the
uncertainties and help us plan where we must go with future

Set for launch April 7 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station,
FL, Odyssey is NASA's first mission to Mars since the loss of
two spacecraft in 1999. Other than our Moon, Mars has
attracted more spacecraft exploration attempts than any other
object in the solar system, and no other planet has proved as
daunting to success. Of the 30 missions sent to Mars by three
countries over 40 years, fewer than one-third have been

The Odyssey team conducted vigorous reviews and incorporated
"lessons learned" in the mission plan. "The project team has
looked at the people, processes, and design to understand and
reduce our mission risk," said George Pace, 2001 Mars Odyssey
project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL),
Pasadena, CA. "We haven't been satisfied with just fixing the
problems from the previous missions. We've been trying to
anticipate and prevent other things that could jeopardize the
success of the mission."

Odyssey is part of NASA's Mars Exploration Program, a long-
term robotic exploration initiative launched in 1996 with Mars
Pathfinder and Mars Global Surveyor. "The scientific
trajectory of the restructured Mars Exploration Program begins
a new era of reconnaissance with the Mars Odyssey orbiter,"
said Dr. Jim Garvin, lead scientist for NASA's Mars
Exploration Program. "Odyssey will help identify and
ultimately target those places on Mars where future rovers and
landers must visit to unravel the mysteries of the Red

NASA's latest explorer carries three scientific instruments to
map the chemical and mineralogical makeup of Mars: a thermal-
emission imaging system, a gamma ray spectrometer and a
Martian radiation environment experiment. The imaging system
will map the planet with high-resolution thermal images and
give scientists an increased level of detail to help them
understand how the mineralogy of the planet relates to the
landforms. The part of Odyssey's imaging system that takes
pictures in visible light will see objects with a clarity that
fills the gaps between the Viking orbiter cameras of the 1970s
and today's high-resolution images from Mars Global Surveyor.

Like a virtual shovel digging into the surface, Odyssey's
gamma ray spectrometer will allow scientists to peer into the
shallow subsurface of Mars, the upper few centimeters of the
crust, to measure many elements, including the amount of
hydrogen that exists. Since hydrogen is mostly likely present
in the form of water ice, the spectrometer will be able to
measure permanent ground ice and how that changes with the

"For the first time at Mars we will have a spacecraft that is
equipped to find evidence for present near-surface water and
to map mineral deposits from past water activity," said Dr.
Steve Saunders, 2001 Mars Odyssey project scientist at JPL.
"Despite the wealth of information from previous missions,
exactly what Mars is made of is not fully known, so this
mission will give us a basic understanding about the chemistry
and mineralogy of the surface."

The Martian radiation environment experiment will be the first
to look at radiation levels at Mars as they relate to the
potential hazards faced by future astronauts. The experiment
will take data on the way to Mars and in orbit around the Red
Planet. After completing its primary mission, the Odyssey
orbiter will provide a communications relay for future
American and international landers, including NASA's Mars
Exploration Rovers, scheduled for launch in 2003.

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA, manages the 2001
Mars Odyssey mission for NASA's Office of Space Science,
Washington, DC. Principal investigators at Arizona State
University, the University of Arizona and NASA's Johnson Space
Center will operate the science instruments. Lockheed Martin
Astronautics, Denver, CO, is the prime contractor for the
project, and developed and built the orbiter. Mission
operations will be conducted jointly from JPL, a division of
the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, and
Lockheed Martin.


                            * * *

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Received on Mon 19 Mar 2001 05:11:13 PM PST

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