Marking the 20th anniversary of Odyssey, NASA has released a stunning picture of blue dunes that were spotted on Mars. The picture was taken using the Mars Odyssey Orbiter which is a robotic spacecraft that circles the Red Planet. Notably, it was Odyssey spacecraft that first detected water ice on Mars using a thermal imager.
The picture is an indicative of the climate on the planet. Blue represents cooler climes, and the shades of yellow mark out "sun-warmed dunes," the US space agency said in a post on its website. It also shows wind-sculpted lines surrounding Mars' frosty northern polar cap.
The frame captured shows an area as wide as 31 kilometres. The entire sea of dunes equals to an area close to the size of Texas. Texas is the second largest American state after Alaska. Texas is spread in an area of about 695,662 sq km.
The picture is made of a combination of images captured by the Thermal Emission Imaging System instrument on the Mars Odyssey orbiter between December 2002 and November 2004. The pictured location on Mars is 80.3 degrees north latitude, 172.1 degrees east longitude.
Odyssey spacecraft was launched on April 7 in 2001 from Cape Canaveral in Florida. It reached Mars orbit in October same year. The spacecraft has completed 20 years of mapping Earth's neighboring planet. The spacecraft is still working. It has now become the longest-lived spacecraft on Mars.
Besides locating water ice on Mars, Odyssey also provided data to assess safe landing sites for its rovers. Odyssey also allowed scientists to study the mysterious moons of Mars. The spacecraft helped NASA to redefined the scientific approach to explore Mars in the last few decades. NASA remains the only space agency in the world to land and operate as many as 9 rovers including the Perseverance on the Red Planet's surface. Perseverance, according to NASA, is the most advanced astrobiology laboratory ever sent to another world. It touched down on the planet's surface in February this year.