Evidence for interstellar origin…

In a recent paper in Science, a collaboration of 65 professional scientists and more than 30,000 citizen scientists of Stardust at Home, led by SSL Research Physicist Andrew Westphal, reported on the identification and analyses of tiny particles that are likely to be the first particles ever identified from interstellar space, outside our Solar System. Previously, much of our knowledge of interstellar dust has come from observations of using telescopes, but these analyses were carried out using laboratory instruments, including x-ray microscopes the size of shopping malls. The particles were surprisingly diverse in their composition and structure. The number of large particles was also a surprise, and implies that many particles in interstellar space have a complex, open structure, more like snowflakes than solid rocks. These particles are likely to be very similar to the original building blocks of the Solar System the Sun, the planets, the Earth, and us.

First Released Results from the MAVEN Mission

MAVEN Results

As the #MAVEN spacecraft begins to collect science data over the next few weeks, images, visualizations, and other science data products that have been released to the public will be available online.

Early results are available now and we expect much more to come, as MAVEN begins its one-Earth year primary mission in early to mid-November.

Article Courtesy of LASP at the University of Colorado Boulder

MAVEN completes Periapsis Lowering Manuever


The MAVEN spacecraft has completed the Periapsis Lowering Maneuvers necessary to place it into its 4.5 hour elliptical (150 km by 6,200 km) science mapping orbit around Mars.

Five times during ‪#‎MAVEN‬’s one-year science mission it will make “deep dips” and descend to a periapsis altitude of 125 km (77.6 mi). At this altitude, ‪#‎Mars‬‘ atmosphere is about 30 times more dense than at MAVEN’s science mapping periapsis of 150 km.

Many of the design features, algorithms, processes, and lessons-learned from previous Mars missions support MAVEN’s “deep dip” operations. One of these design features is MAVEN’s gull-wing solar panel design. The spacecraft’s solar panels are bent at a 20º angle.

As MAVEN travels through the upper atmosphere, the air pressure will increase to a point that could disrupt flight dynamics if the solar panels were flat. MAVEN’s bent solar panels shift the center of air pressure away from the spacecraft’s center of gravity, providing a self-stabilizing configuration for atmospheric flight. The effect is similar to the self-stabilization provided by feathers on a badminton shuttlecock.

Story courtesy of NASA’s MAVEN Mission to Mars FB page

MAVEN configured for science, ready for comet encounter

Comet Siding

Artist Rendition of Comet Siding Spring on its October 19th Flyby of Mars and MAVEN in orbit


MAVEN’s initial orbit after deceleration burn and the current 4.5 hour orbit

With four burns completed since Mars Orbit Insertion on Sept. 21st, ‪#‎MAVEN is now in a 4.6 hour orbit with a periapsis (closest approach to Mars) of ~175 km. In MAVEN’s current orbit, Mars’ atmospheric density is 0.04 kg/km³, which is just outside the required density corridor for the primary science phase.

The current orbit places the spacecraft into what is referred to as an “occultation zone” with respect to the arrival of Comet Siding Spring’s dust cloud on Sunday, Oct. 19th. Despite the unique science opportunity presented by the close encounter with an Oort Cloud comet, the safety of the spacecraft at ‪#‎Mars‬ remains top priority. All of NASA’s Mars orbiters have made adjustments to their orbits and spacecraft orientation to minimize any potential risk.

Two Periapsis Lowering Maneuvers (PLMs) planned over next two weeks will lower MAVEN’s periapsis to 150 km and place the spacecraft within the required science density corridor of 0.05 kg/km³ to 0.15 kg/km³.

Article and photo courtesy of the MAVEN Facebook page

NASA Reports MAVEN Mission’s First Look at Mars

Mars Image

NASA Reports MAVEN Mission’s First Look at Mars

The ‪#‎MAVEN‬ spacecraft has provided scientists their first look at a storm of energetic solar particles at ‪#‎Mars‬, produced unprecedented ultraviolet images of the tenuous oxygen, hydrogen, and carbon coronas surrounding the Red Planet, and yielded a comprehensive map of highly-variable ozone in the atmosphere underlying the coronas.

The spacecraft, which entered Mars’ orbit Sept. 21, now is lowering its orbit and testing its instruments. MAVEN was launched to Mars in November 2013, to help solve the mystery of how the Red Planet lost most of its atmosphere.

MAVEN completes first two maneuvers in transition to science phase

Maven Orbit

The #MAVEN spacecraft has successfully completed the first two of six maneuvers of the transition phase that will conclude when the spacecraft begins collecting science data on November 8th.

The two burns have reduced the capture periapsis (closest point to Mars in the orbit) from 380 km to 204 km and the captured orbital period from 35 hours to 5.5 hours.

The first Periapsis Lower Maneuver was a maneuver of 8 m/sec. performed at apoapsis (farthest point from Mars in the orbit) with the purpose of reducing periapsis. The first Period Reduction Maneuver was designed with a delta-V (∆V) of 455 m/sec., about 37% as large as the #Mars Orbit Insertion maneuver, and reduced the orbital period most of way to the science requirement of 4.5 hours. A follow up PRM-2 using only the Trajectory Correction Maneuver engines is scheduled to be performed Oct 2nd to reduce the orbit period the remaining 1 hour.

The full timeline of MAVEN transition events can be found here: http://bit.ly/1u4vswK

Article and photo courtesy of the MAVEN Facebook page