NASA’s Mars Odyssey orbiter took the lead Wednesday as the spacecraft which has served longest studying Mars. As of yesterday, Odyssey (which left Earth in 2001) has been in orbit around Mars for 3340 days. The previous record was held by the Mars Global Syrveyor, which server from 1997 to 2006.
Odyssey has achieved a lot over the last nine years. It has continuously monitored seasonal changes on Mars from year to year, compiled the most detailed maps ever of the martian surface and even managed to indirectly detect underground water ice at high latitude regions near the poles. Apart from its own science missions, Odyssey has also served as a communications relay for Spirit and Opportunity, the two martian rovers, and the Phoenix mars lander. This work wll continue in 2012 when the Mars Science Laboratory lands, which will assess whether its landing area has had environmental conditions favorable for microbial life, and will search for evidence about whether life has ever existed there.
“The Mars program clearly demonstrates that world-class science coupled with sound and creative engineering equals success and longevity,” said Doug McCuistion, director of the Mars Exploration Program at NASA Headquarters in Washington.
For more information, visit the official mission page at http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/odyssey