What is Mars Odyssey?

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What is Mars Odyssey? Blog Image


NASA has recently captured an epic view of the largest volcano in our solar system named Olympus Mons using the Mars Odyssey orbiter.

About Mars Odyssey:

  • It was an early mission in NASA’s Mars Exploration Program.
  • It was launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on April 7, 2001.
  • The Odyssey spacecraft has been orbiting Mars since 2001.
  • Odyssey's original goals were to search for signs of water, make detailed maps of the planet’s surface materials, and determine radiation levels for humans.
  • The spacecraft holds the record for the longest continually active mission in orbitaround a planet other than Earth. Its mission is scheduled to last until 2025.
  • It created the first global map of chemical elements and minerals that make up the Martian surface.
  • Odyssey continues to study Mars’s surface to see how the planet changes over time. 
  • The spacecraft also serves as a communications relay to Earth for spacecraft on the surface that lack high-powered antennas and cannot beam information to Earth very quickly. 

Key Facts about Olympus Mons:

  • It is a shield volcano located in Mars’ western hemisphere.
  • It is the highest point on Mars and the largest known volcano in the solar system.
    • It is 16 miles (24 kilometers) high, which makes it about three times higher than Mt. Everest.
    • It is also very wide (340 miles or 550 kilometers) and covers an area larger than the entire chain of Hawaiian Islands.
    • In contrast, the largest volcano on Earth, Hawaii’s Mauna Loa, is 120 kilometers across and 9 kilometers high.
  • It is some 3.5 billion years old, which means the volcano formed early on in Mars’ history.
  • It is a very flat mountain which slopes by only 2 to 5 degrees.
  • Its summit is marked by a caldera, a large depression formed by volcanic activity, spanning 50 miles (80 kilometers) wide.
    • The summit caldera consists of several overlapping pits. These pits were created by different eruptive phases.
    • In contrast, many Earth-based volcanoes typically feature a single, less complex caldera.

Q1: What is a Shield Volcano?

Shield volcanoes are a type of volcano that tend to erupt basalt lava, a type of lava that is very fluid when erupted. Although shield volcanoes are the largest volcanoes on Earth, they do not form soaring mountains with conical peaks like composite volcanoes. Instead, they are broad volcanoes with gentle slopes. Eruptions at shield volcanoes are only explosive if water somehow gets into the vent, otherwise they are characterized by low-explosivity fountaining that forms cinder cones and spatter cones at the vent. The Hawaiian shield volcanoes are the most famous examples.

Source: NASA captures view of largest volcano in our solar system using Mars Odyssey orbiter