NASA Spacecraft Set to Enter Mars Orbit

Washington, September 18 (QNA) – NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft is nearing its scheduled September 21 insertion into Martian orbit after completing a 10-month interplanetary journey of 442 million miles.

Flight Controllers at Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Littleton, Colorado, will be responsible for the functioning and safety of the spacecraft. The spacecraft’s mission timeline will place the spacecraft in orbit at approximately 9:50 pm (EDT), NASA said.

MAVEN Project Manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, David Mitchell said, “The team, the flight system, and all ground assets are ready for Mars orbit insertion.”
The orbit-insertion manoeuvre will begin with the brief firing of six small thruster engines to steady the spacecraft. The engines will ignite and burn for 33 minutes to slow the craft, allowing it to be pulled into an elliptical orbit with a period of 35 hours.

After the orbit insertion, MAVEN will begin a six-week commissioning phase that includes manoeuvring the spacecraft into its final orbit and testing its instruments and science-mapping commands.

MAVEN will then begin its one-Earth-year primary mission to take measurements of the composition, structure and escape of gases in Mars’ upper atmosphere and its interaction with the sun and solar wind.

“The MAVEN science mission focuses on answering questions about where did the water that was present on early Mars go, about where did the carbon dioxide go,” said Bruce Jakosky, MAVEN principal investigator from the University of Colorado, Boulder’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics. “These are important questions for understanding the history of Mars, its climate, and its potential to support at least microbial life.”
MAVEN, launched November 18, 2013, from Cape Canaveral, Florida, carrying three instrument packages, is the first spacecraft dedicated to exploring the upper atmosphere of Mars. (QNA)

"NASA Spacecraft Set to Enter Mars Orbit"

NASA’s Rover Arrives at Martian Mountain

Washington, September 12 (QNA) – NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover has reached the Red Planet’s Mount Sharp, a mountain at the center of the vast Gale Crater and the rover mission’s long-term prime destination.

“Curiosity now will begin a new chapter from an already outstanding introduction to the world,” said Jim Green, director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “After a historic and innovative landing along with its successful science discoveries, the scientific sequel is upon us.”
Curiosity’s trek up the mountain will begin with an examination of the mountain’s lower slopes. The rover is starting this process at an entry point near an outcrop called Pahrump Hills, rather than continuing on to the previously-planned, further entry point known as Murray Buttes.

Both entry points lay along a boundary where the southern base layer of the mountain meets crater-floor deposits washed down from the crater’s northern rim.

“It has been a long but historic journey to this Martian mountain,” said Curiosity Project Scientist John Grotzinger of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. “The nature of the terrain at Pahrump Hills and just beyond it is a better place than Murray Buttes to learn about the significance of this contact.

The exposures at the contact are better due to greater topographic relief.”
The decision to head uphill sooner, instead of continuing to Murray Buttes, also draws from improved understanding of the region’s geography provided by the rover’s examinations of several outcrops during the past year.

Rover currently is positioned at the base of the mountain along a pale, distinctive geological feature called the Murray Formation. Compared to neighbouring crater-floor terrain, the rock of the Murray Formation is softer and does not preserve impact scars, as well. As viewed from orbit, it is not as well-layered as other units at the base of Mount Sharp, NASA said. (QNA)

"NASA’s Rover Arrives at Martian Mountain"