[meteorite-list] NASA's Mars Odyssey Orbiter Watches Comet Fly Near

From: Ron Baalke <baalke_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Sun, 19 Oct 2014 23:30:12 -0700 (PDT)
Message-ID: <201410200630.s9K6UCR5005598_at_zagami.jpl.nasa.gov>


NASA's Mars Odyssey Orbiter Watches Comet Fly Near
Jet Propulsion Laboratory
October 19, 2014

Mars Odyssey Mission Status Report

The longest-lived robot ever sent to Mars came through its latest challenge
in good health, reporting home on schedule after sheltering behind Mars
from possible comet dust.

NASA's Mars Odyssey was out of communications with Earth, as planned,
while conducting observations of comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring on Sunday,
Oct. 19, as the comet flew near Mars. The comet sped within about 88,000
miles (139,500 kilometers) of Mars, equivalent to about one-third of the
distance between Earth and Earth's moon. Odyssey had performed a maneuver
on Aug. 5 to adjust the timing of its orbit so that it would be shielded
by Mars itself during the minutes, around 1 p.m. PDT (4 p.m. EDT) today,
when computer modeling projected a slight risk from high-velocity dust
particles in the comet's tail.

"The telemetry received from Odyssey this afternoon confirms not only
that the spacecraft is in fine health but also that it conducted the planned
observations of comet Siding Spring within hours of the comet's closest
approach to Mars," said Odyssey Mission Manager Chris Potts of NASA's
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., speaking from mission operations
center at Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver.

Comet Siding Spring observations were made by the orbiter's Thermal Emission
Imaging System (THEMIS). Resulting images are expected in coming days
after the data is downlinked to Earth and processed. THEMIS is also scheduled
to record a combined image of the comet and a portion of Mars later this
week. In addition, the Odyssey mission is using the spacecraft's Neutron
Spectrometer and High Energy Neutron detector to assess possible effects
on Mars' atmosphere of dust and gas from the comet.

Three NASA Mars orbiters, two Mars rovers and other assets on Earth and
in space are studying comet Siding Spring. This comet is making its first
visit this close to the sun from the outer solar system's Oort Cloud,
so the concerted campaign of observations may yield fresh clues to our
solar system's earliest days more than 4 billion years ago.

Following the comet flyby, operations teams have also confirmed the good
health of NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and of NASA's Mars Atmosphere
and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) orbiter.

Mars Odyssey has worked at the Red Planet longer than any other Mars mission
in history. NASA launched the spacecraft on April 7, 2001, and Odyssey
arrived at Mars Oct. 24, 2001. Besides conducting its own scientific observations,
the mission provides a communication relay for robots on the Martian surface.

Odyssey is managed by JPL for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington.
Lockheed Martin Space Systems built the spacecraft. JPL and Lockheed Martin
collaborate on operating the spacecraft. The California Institute of Technology
in Pasadena manages JPL for NASA.

Arizona State University, Tempe, designed and operates THEMIS, which takes
images in a range of visible light and infrared wavelengths. Odyssey's
Neutron Spectrometer, provided by the U.S. Department of Energy's Los
Alamos National Laboratories in New Mexico, and High Energy Neutron Detector,
provided by the Russia's Space Research Institute, are parts of the mission's
Gamma Ray Spectrometer suite, managed by the University of Arizona, Tucson.

For more about the Mars Odyssey mission, visit:


For more about comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring, visit:


Media Contact
Guy Webster
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
guy.webster at jpl.nasa.gov

Dwayne Brown
NASA Headquarters, Washington
dwayne.c.brown at nasa.gov
Received on Mon 20 Oct 2014 02:30:12 AM PDT

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