NASA’s MAVEN Spacecraft Enters Martian Orbit
[Via Satellite 09-22-2014] Following a 10-month interplanetary journey, NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) research satellite has reached the Red Planet. Lockheed Martin, MAVEN’s manufacturer, and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) confirmed the orbital insertion, with telemetry and tracking data coming from NASA’s Canberra, Australia-based Deep Space Network antenna station. The spacecraft now begins a six-week commissioning phase that includes testing science instruments, mapping commands and moving into final orbit.
The University of California at Berkeley, the University of Colorado Boulder Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (CU/LASP) and NASA Goddard built MAVEN’s three primary instruments. During the one Earth-year science mission, MAVEN will conduct five “deep dip” campaigns, immersing itself in Mars’ upper atmosphere to study composition, the escape of gases and the influence of solar activity.
“As the first orbiter dedicated to studying Mars’ upper atmosphere, MAVEN will greatly improve our understanding of the history of the Martian atmosphere, how the climate has changed over time, and how that has influenced the evolution of the surface and the potential habitability of the planet,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “It also will better inform a future mission to send humans to the Red Planet in the 2030s.”