On Dec. 15, 2010, the Odyssey Spacecraft set the record for longest exploration mission on Mars. The probe is now in its 3,358th day over the red planet.

The Odyssey allows us to view the weather patterns on Mars with much more clarity than any fact-finding mission before it. Sensors detected hydrogen below the planet’s surface in 2002, and 6 years later it was confirmed that there actually is frozen water below the red sands of Mars.

NASA’s goal for the Odyssey was to gather information and pave the way for the first human missions.

Plans for the landing of the Mars Science Laboratory and further surface missions are already underway, with the Odyssey in place to relay the communications from a high orbit. The mission is set for 2012.

Odyssey project manager Gaylon Mcsmith said “Odyssey has proved itself to be a great spacecraft, but what really enables a spacecraft to reach this sort of accomplishment is the people behind it….This is a tribute to the whole Odyssey team.”

The Mars Science Laboratory will conduct experiments to test the possibility of the planet sustaining microbial life, and to gather evidence that would support the theory of past life on Mars. It will be fully equipped with the most sophisticated arsenal of fact-finding instruments Mars has seen yet.