The Mars Odyssey spacecraft, which began mapping the Red Planet in February, has already recorded some intriguing images and spectra of the Martian surface (SN: 3/9/02, p. 149: Odyssey’s First Look: Craft spies signs of ice at the Martian south pole).
Although its neutron and gamma-ray spectrometers, as well as a device gathering temperature data and infrared images, have functioned according to plan, another detector had proved troublesome. A computer glitch caused the Mars Radiation Experiment (MARIE) to stop taking data last August, during Odyssey’s journey to Mars. The device is intended to measure radiation near the Martian surface.
Those data are needed to assess how people could safely explore the Red Planet.
After several weeks of troubleshooting, flight controllers reestablished communication with MARIE in early March, and the instrument came back online March 14. With the revived instrument, “we now have the entire payload working,” says Roger Gibbs, Odyssey project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.