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Emily LakdawallaMarch 12, 2009

"Status reports" on Mars Odyssey and the Cassini Saturn orbiter

JPL has issued "status reports" (again, that ominous headline) for two spacecraft, and the news is (generally) positive, though the reports do serve as a reminder that these reliable spacecraft aren't getting any younger.

First, an update on Mars Odyssey, which needed to be rebooted this week in order to address some issues associated with its memory and with its backup electronics. The planned reboot was delayed by one day because of "an unexpected rise in temperature of the star camera in Odyssey's navigation system on March 9," which turned out to be caused by a heater circuit that was stuck in the "on" position, which they were able to shut off successfully. The status report states that Odyssey is in good health following its reboot, and that the reboot solved the two problems it was meant to address. So now we know that Odyssey's backup electronics are ready to serve if any problem befalls any of the systems it's currently using. Odyssey should be back to normal science operations next week. The report didn't give any information on what effect, if any, the reboot had on the rover missions, which ordinarily use Odyssey to relay science data to Earth.

The other status report concerned Cassini. It's easy to forget that Cassini's not a young spacecraft -- it's been in space for nearly 12 years now. The report states that Cassini has switched over to its backup thruster system because of "degradation in the performance of the primary thrusters." One thing I'm curious about is whether the primary thrusters would still be available if something happens in the backup system. Anyone who works on Cassini, please speak up and let me know!

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Emily Lakdawalla

Senior Editor and Planetary Evangelist for The Planetary Society
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Emily Lakdwalla
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