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Image: Odyssey
An artist's conception shows NASA's 2001 Mars Odyssey probe mapping the Red Planet.

Intense solar activity last month shut down a radiation-measuring instrument aboard NASA’s 2001 Mars Odyssey orbiter and controllers have been unable to put it back in operation, NASA said Wednesday.

The instrument was designed to collect data for evaluating the risks future Mars-bound astronauts would face from space radiation.

It worked from March 2002 until last month, the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory said in a statement.

Efforts to restore the instrument will continue for several weeks or months, the laboratory said.

“Even if the instrument provides no additional data in the future, it has been a great success at characterizing the radiation environment that a crewed mission to Mars would need to anticipate,” said Jeffrey Plaut, project scientist for Mars Odyssey.

The Oct. 28 solar storm caused a blackout in Sweden, damaged two Japanese satellites and upset radio and navigation systems for aircraft and ships. Damage was limited because the storm had been forecast and electric utilities and satellite companies took precautions.

Odyssey was launched on April 7, 2001, and reached Mars on Oct. 23, 2001. After a period of tightening its orbit around the Red Planet, Odyssey began its science mission in early 2002.

Other instruments on board look for water and map chemical elements and minerals on the Martian surface.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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