This artist's rendering portrays ice-rich layers in the soils of Mars being detected by instruments aboard NASA's 2001 Mars Odyssey spacecraft. Measurements by the gamma ray spectrometer suite of instruments indicate that the upper meter (three feet) of soil contains an ice-rich zone with an ice abundance of 20 to 50 percent by mass. The ice-rich areas surround the polar regions of Mars, down to latitudes of about 60 degrees, in both the north and the south. The instruments detect the signature of hydrogen, indicating water ice, to a depth of about one meter (three feet). It is not known whether or how deep the ice-rich zone continues below that depth. The view of the spacecraft in this artist's rendering is not to scale, as the observations are obtained from an orbital altitude of 400 kilometers (250 miles).
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory manages the 2001 Mars Odyssey mission for NASA's Office of Space Science, Washington, D.C. Investigators at Arizona State University in Tempe, the University of Arizona in Tucson, and NASA's Johnson Space Center, Houston, operate the science instruments. The gamma-ray spectrometer was provided by the University of Arizona in collaboration with the Russian Aviation and Space Agency, which provided the high-energy neutron detector, and the Los Alamos National Laboratories, New Mexico, which provided the neutron spectrometer. Lockheed Martin Astronautics, Denver, is the prime contractor for the project, and developed and built the orbiter. Mission operations are conducted jointly from Lockheed Martin and from JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.