Ten years ago, on Feb. 19, 2002, the Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS), a multi-band camera on NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter, began scientific operations at the Red Planet. Since then the camera has circled Mars nearly 45,000 times and taken more than half a million images at infrared and visible wavelengths.
"THEMIS has proven itself a workhorse," said Philip Christensen of Arizona State University, Tempe, the camera's principal investigator and designer. "It's especially gratifying to me to see the range of discoveries that have been made using this instrument."
Highlights of science results by THEMIS over the past 10 years include:
THEMIS combines a five-wavelength visual imaging system with a nine-wavelength infrared imaging system. By comparing daytime and nighttime infrared images of an area, scientists can determine many of the physical properties of the rocks and soils on the ground.
Mars Odyssey has a two-hour orbit that is nearly "sun-synchronous," meaning that Odyssey passes over the same part of Mars at roughly the same local time each day. In September 2008 its orbit was shifted toward an earlier time of day, which enhanced THEMIS' mineralogical detection capability.
Says Christensen, "Both Odyssey and THEMIS are in excellent health and we look forward to years more science with them."
NASA launched the Mars Odyssey spacecraft April 7, 2001. Odyssey arrived at Mars Oct. 24, 2001. After arrival the spacecraft spent several months in a technique called aerobraking, which involved dipping into the Martian atmosphere to adjust its orbit. In February 2002, science operations began.
Odyssey is managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver built the spacecraft. JPL and Lockheed Martin collaborate on operating the spacecraft. For more about the Mars Odyssey mission, visit: http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/odyssey . For more about THEMIS, see http://themis.asu.edu/ . JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.