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NASA Mars Odyssey orbiter breaks longevity record

NASA's Lockheed Martin-built Mars Odyssey orbiter has worked longer on the red planet than any other spacecraft in history: 3,340 days.

NASA on Wednesday announced that its Mars Odyssey orbiter has worked longer on the red planet than any other spacecraft in history: 3,340 days.

The previous record holder was its predecessor, the Mars Global Surveyor. Defense firm Lockheed Martin built both spacecraft.

The milestone is important to NASA because it's an occasion to reflect on what the agency has accomplished on Mars.

Among Odyssey's accomplishments:

  • Detection of lots of hydrogen just below the surface, thought to (and later confirmed by the 2008 Phoenix Mars Lander mission) be trapped in frozen water.
  • The highest-resolution map yet of Mars, covering almost the entire planet.
  • Service as a relay node for much of the science data from NASA's Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity.
  • Service as a relay node for observation of Martian weather by Mars Global Surveyor, Odyssey, and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

Odyssey was first launched on April 7, 2001. It took seven months for the spacecraft to reach Mars, and on Monday will surpass 40,000 total orbits of the planet.

Even though Odyssey's original mission is long over, NASA still has plans for it as a communication relay node for the August 2012 landing of NASA's next Mars rover, Curiosity.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com