NASA announced today that the Mars Odyssey orbiter has switched to a set of redundant equipment and has resumed its observational and relay duties. The equipment that was switched on, which included the orbiter's backup main computer, had not been used since before the orbiter's April 2001 launch from Earth.
"The side-swap has gone well," said Gaylon McSmith, Odyssey project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). "All the subsystems that we are using for the first time are performing as intended."
Late Sunday, after switching to its redundant systems, Odyssey relayed data from Mars rover Opportunity to Earth using its "B-side" UHF radio. The radio is one of several redundant subsystems linked directly to the "B-side" computer. Later this week the orbiter is expected to relay data for Mars rover Curiosity and resume its own observations.
The switch took place because diagnostics indicated to project managers that the "A-side" inertial measurement unit has only a few months or more of useful life. The switch leaves a fully functioning A-side, which can be used temporarily in case any problem is encountered with the B-side system.
"It is testimony to the excellent design of this spacecraft and operation of this mission in partnership with Lockheed Martin that we have brand-new major components available to begin using after more than 11 years at Mars," said McSmith.
Odyssey began orbiting Mars on October 24, 2001, making it the longest-working spacecraft ever sent to Mars. The orbiter functions as a relay for the two functioning rovers currently on Mars and also takes its own measurements, following the year-to-year seasonal changes on Mars.
(Image courtesy NASA/JPL)