WASHINGTON, October 20 (RIA Novosti) – All three orbiters of the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) are safe after each took shelter behind Mars from the dust released by a passing comet.
"The telemetry received from [the Mars] Odyssey [orbiter] this afternoon confirms not only that the spacecraft is in fine health, but also that it conducted the planned observations of comet Siding Spring within hours of the comet's closest approach to Mars," Odyssey Mission Manager Chris Potts said as quoted by NASA Sunday.
The other two orbiters, Mars Reconnaissance and Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN), have also confirmed their healthy status, according to NASA.
The orbiters are part of a campaign to study comet Siding Spring, also known as comet C/2013 A1, and the possible effects on the Martian atmosphere from gases and dust, released by the comet.
NASA says images made by the orbiters are expected in the coming days after the data is downlinked to Earth and processed. A combined image of the comet and a portion of Mars is expected to be made later this week.
Siding Spring sped within about 88,000 miles (139,500 kilometers) of Mars, equivalent to about one-third of the distance between Earth and Earth's moon, on Sunday. According to NASA, this was the closest of all other known comet flybys of Mars or Earth.