A spacecraft that has been orbiting Mars for nearly 11 years got a tune-up this week, just in time to monitor NASA’s newest rover.
The Mars Odyssey orbiter will send a message to Earth when the spacecraft carrying the rover Curiosity first enters the Red Planet’s atmosphere Aug. 5.
Odyssey plunged into “safe” mode earlier this month when one of its three reaction wheels began to stick. The wheels control what direction it faces toward Earth or Mars. Engineers have replaced the defunct wheel with a spare that the orbiter has been carrying all these years. The orbiter is managed by a team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Odyssey, along with the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, will provide a communication link for the Mars Science Laboratory mission.
The rover Curiosity will raise an antennae when it lands in the Gale Crater, which will allow it to send signals to the orbiters. The orbiters will then send the messages back to Earth, letting the team at JPL know what the one-ton rover has discovered.
But Odyssey won't focus all its attention on Curiosity; The rover Opportunity is still rolling around on Mars.
-- Tiffany Kelly, Times Community News