Press Release

NASA’s Mars Odyssey Unveils Early Science Results

By SpaceRef Editor
March 1, 2002
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Initial science data from NASA’s Mars Odyssey spacecraft, which began
its mapping mission last week, portend some tantalizing findings by the
newest Martian visitor, including possible identification of
significant amounts of frozen water.

“We are delighted with the quality of data we’re seeing,” said Dr.
Steve Saunders, Odyssey project scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion
Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena, Calif. “We’ll use it to build on what we’ve
learned from Mars Global Surveyor and other missions. Now we may
actually see water rather than guessing where it is or was. And with
the thermal images we are able to examine surface geology from a new

“These preliminary Odyssey observations are the ‘tip of the iceberg’ of
the science results that are soon to come, so stay tuned,” said Dr. Jim
Garvin, Lead Scientist of the Mars Exploration Program at NASA
Headquarters in Washington.

Mars Odyssey Images:

  • Daytime Infrared, Terra Sirenum
  • Acheron Fossae in Visible Light
  • Southern Hemisphere Neutron Map
  • Infrared, Terra Sirenum
  • South Pole Neutron View
  • Global Neutron View
  • Hydaspis Chaos in Nighttime Infrared

    Radiation Level Measurements by MARIE:

  • Estimated Radiation Dosage on Mars
  • Estimated Radiation on Mars, Hits per Cell Nucleus
  • New images taken by the thermal-emission imaging system show the
    temperature of the surface at a remarkable level of clarity and detail
    during both the Martian day and night.

    Odyssey’s camera system is studying Mars’ surface mineralogy to reveal
    geologic history. The thermal infrared images are thirty times sharper
    than previously available, and the camera’s visible-light images will
    fill a gap in resolution between Viking Orbiter and Mars Global
    Surveyor pictures.

    Initial measurements by the gamma-ray spectrometer instrument suite
    show the presence of significant amounts of hydrogen in the south polar
    region of Mars. The high hydrogen content is most likely due to water
    ice, though the amount of ice cannot be quantified yet. Further
    analysis will be conducted to confirm the interpretation.

    The detection of hydrogen is based both on the intensity of gamma rays
    emitted by hydrogen, and by the intensity of neutrons that are
    moderated by hydrogen. The neutron intensity was observed by the high-
    energy neutron detector and the neutron spectrometer.

    “The preliminary assessment of the gamma-ray spectrometer data
    indicates the likely presence of hydrogen in the upper few feet of the
    Martian surface, as sampled at spatial scales approximately 400 miles
    across. Further analysis and another month or so of mapping will permit
    more quantitative assessment of these observations and allow for a
    refined interpretation,” added Garvin.

    Measurements made by the Martian radiation-environment experiment
    during Odyssey’s cruise phase suggest that the daily dose of radiation
    experienced by astronauts on their way from Earth to Mars would be more
    than twice the dose endured by astronauts on the International Space
    Station. Investigators are in the process of troubleshooting the
    radiation experiment to determine why the instrument stopped
    communicating. It was turned off in August 2001.

    JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena,
    manages the 2001 Mars Odyssey mission for NASA’s Office of Space
    Science in Washington. Investigators at Arizona State University in
    Tempe, the University of Arizona in Tucson and NASA’s Johnson Space
    Center, Houston, operate the science instruments.

    Additional science partners are located at the Russian Aviation and
    Space Agency, which provided the high-energy neutron detector, and at
    Los Alamos National Laboratories, New Mexico, which provided the
    neutron spectrometer.

    Lockheed Martin Astronautics, Denver, is the prime contractor for the
    project, and developed and built the orbiter. Mission operations are
    conducted jointly from Lockheed Martin and from JPL.

    The latest images from Mars Odyssey are available on the Internet at:

    Additional information about the spacecraft’s neutron detector and
    neutron spectrometer is available online at:

    SpaceRef staff editor.