Odyssey's primary science mission is taking place from February 2002 through August 2004 as it continuously orbits Mars. The mission is mapping the amount and distribution of chemical elements and minerals that make up the Martian surface for the first time. Research has been focusing on the detection of hydrogen, most likely in the form of water ice, in the shallow subsurface of Mars by using a gamma ray spectrometer designed in part by Dr. Mitrofanov and his colleagues at IKI.
Working under contract from Rosaviacosmos, the team at IKI designed a High Energy Neutron Detector (HEND) to integrate with the Odyssey. NASA scientists then outfitted Odyssey with the HEND before readying the craft for launch, which took place on April 7, 2001.
In his meeting with Institute representatives, Dr. Mitrofanov announced that the initial data now being returned from the HEND suggest that there may be a significant amount of water lying just below the surface of Mars. However, he cautioned that it will take months to analyze fully all of the data in order to confirm these initial findings.
Dr. Mitrofanov described the joint effort as being a very positive experience and commented that he would welcome any opportunity to cooperate in the future. He also expressed his opinion that the work being done by the Institute on US-Russian cooperation in space is being enhanced by the Institute's decision to look at both manned space flight cooperation and cooperation in the area of space science.