MAVEN – Launched 9 Months Ago, 34 Days to Mars Orbit Insertion


MAVEN launched nine months ago today

On November 18, 2013, at 1:28 p.m. ET, the MAVEN spacecraft launched successfully towards Mars atop the United Launch Alliance Atlas V-401 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

Today, ‪#‎MAVEN‬ is just 34 days from ‪#‎Mars‬ Orbit Insertion (on September 21 at 10 p.m. EDT), all systems are operating nominally, all of the cruise phase instrument and spacecraft checkouts have been completed successfully, all instruments are in excellent health and have been turned off in preparation for the orbit insertion maneuver.

A couple of cruise phase highlights: the IUVS instrument obtained a spectrum of Mars’ sunlit disk in the mid-UV range (; and the Particles and Fields Package has demonstrated its ability to monitor space weather at Mars (!

MAVEN draws closer each day to becoming the first mission devoted entirely to understanding Mars’ upper atmosphere and helping to solve the climate mystery of the Red Planet.

MAVEN launch highlights video:

(Video credit: United Launch Alliance)

Seven tiny grains captured by Stardust are likely visitors from interstellar space


NASA’s Stardust spacecraft, which collected comet and interstellar dust in 2004 and later delivered the tennis-racket shaped dust collectors to Earth via parachute. Courtesy NASA.

Since 2006, when NASA’s Stardust spacecraft delivered its aerogel and aluminum foil dust collectors back to Earth, a team of scientists has combed through the collectors in search of rare, microscopic particles of interstellar dust.

The team now reports that they have found seven dust motes that probably came from outside our solar system, perhaps created in a supernova explosion millions of years ago and altered by eons of exposure to the extremes of space. They would be the first confirmed samples of contemporary interstellar dust.

The complete article can be found at the UC Berkeley News Center, as posted by Robert Sanders, August 14, 2014.

NuSTAR Sees Rare Blurring of Black Hole Light

NuSTAR Artist

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) has captured an extreme and rare event in the regions immediately surrounding a supermassive black hole. A compact source of X-rays that sits near the black hole, called the corona, has moved closer to the black hole over a period of just days.

Learn more about the discovery and at NASA’s Facebook Page, which has also used this photo for their cover photo.

A Satellite and a Comet stroll into the Martian Atmosphere….


Comet Siding Spring is about to fly historically close to Mars. The encounter could spark Martian auroras, a meteor shower, and other unpredictable effects. Whatever happens, NASA’s fleet of Mars satellites, including MAVEN, will have a ringside seat.

With only six weeks left until MAVEN finishes its 9 month journey and enters an orbit around Mars, a once in a lifetime opportunity presents itself. Comet Siding Spring will pass through the upper reaches of the martian atmosphere within a month of MAVEN reaching Mars. MAVEN’s primary mission goal is to study what is left of the martian atmosphere but as an added bonus the same scientific instruments will now have the opportunity to study how the comet will interact with the atmosphere, including potential aurora’s

Mars vs Comet Siding Spring

(Video credit: NASA)

Visit for more.

NuSTAR Celebrates Two Years in Space


Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, a premier black-hole hunter among other talents, has finished up its two-year prime mission, and will be moving onto its next phase, a two-year extension.

“It’s hard to believe it’s been two years since NuSTAR launched,” said Fiona Harrison, the mission’s principal investigator at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. “We achieved all the mission science objectives and made some amazing discoveries I never would have predicted two years ago.”

The Space Sciences Lab has many ties to NuSTAR including Mission Ops and the fabrication of several of the instruments, which are detailed via the link above.

Solar Probe Plus – NASA’s “Mission to the Fires of Hell” Gets Larger Rocket


Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory artist’s concept

In the July 28th edition of SpaceNews, Dan Leone of SpaceNews reports that it is announced that the Solar Probe Plus mission will change from the Atlas V launch vehicle to the Delta IV Rocket.

The Solar Probe Plus, a flagship heliophysics mission NASA expects to cost some $1.5 billion to build and launch around July 2018, needs a bigger rocket than United Launch Alliance’s Atlas 5, according to a senior official at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, where the solar observatory is being built.

MAVEN Particle and Fields Instruments Monitor Space Weather at Mars


MAVEN Particles and Fields: Exploring the Solar Wind Beyond 1 A.U.

As part of its goal to explore Mars’ upper atmosphere and its interaction with the sun and the solar wind, MAVEN is exploring propagation of the solar wind and solar energetic particles (SEPs) beyond 1 Astronomical Unit (149,597,871 kilometers or 92,955,807 miles) during its cruise to ‪#‎Mars‬.

Solar wind density compressions from stream interactions and interplanetary coronal mass ejections (ICMEs) (left) and SEP events (right) are seen at the orbits of Earth and ‪#‎MAVEN‬.

Solar Wind Data.jpg

They show the combined effects of radial propagation and solar rotation, and features can be followed along the solar-wind spirals.

MAVEN observations are complementary to near-Earth assets, providing a valuable perspective on the structure of the solar wind.

The Particles and Fields package has demonstrated its ability to monitor space weather at Mars!

For additional information about the MAVEN Particles and Fields Package, visit:

Watch a video, MAVEN’s Particles and Fields Package: Studying the Solar Wind at Mars:

NASA – National Aeronautics and Space Administration
NASA Goddard UC Berkeley University of Colorado Boulder

Did the Solar Wind Erode the Early Martian Atmosphere


The Martian climate remains one of the solar system’s biggest mysteries: although cold and dry today, myriad surface features on Mars carved by flowing water attest to a much warmer, wetter past. What caused this dramatic transition?

Scientists think that climate change on Mars may be due to solar wind erosion of the early atmosphere, and the MAVEN mission will test this hypothesis.

Project Manager David F. Mitchell discusses ‪#‎MAVEN‬ and the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center’s role in sending it to the Red Planet.

MAVEN: Goddard Goes to Mars

(Video credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio)