Mars Odyssey project manager Gaylon McSmith announced that the team in charge of returning the long-lived orbiter to active duty is currently trying to activate a spare reaction wheel, to replace the one that failed on Friday, June 8.
Reaction wheels – which spin inside their enclosures up to 5,000 times per minute – are responsible for maintaining the satellite's orientation in space. Mars Odyssey has three such wheels, and one of them has recently failed, forcing the vehicle to enter safe mode.
“We are taking steps to assess the replacement of the troublesome wheel with the spare that Odyssey has been carrying for exactly this purpose. If the assessment results are positive, this will put us on a path toward resuming full use of Odyssey,” says McSmith.
The expert holds an appointment at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), in Pasadena, California. He says that preliminary testing of the spare reaction wheel ended in promising results, but adds that the device needs some time to start operations, as it's been inactive since 2001.