MAVEN Arrives at Mars on Sunday

MAVEN Launch

In this Nov. 18, 2013 file photo, NASA’s MAVEN, short for Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution, with a “N”’ in EvolutioN, atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket, lifts off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral, FL

This weekend, NASA’Maven spacecraft will reach the red planet following a 10-month journey spanning 442 million miles. If all goes well, the robotic explorer will hit the brakes and slip into Martian orbit Sunday

“I’m all on pins and needles. This is a critical event,” NASA’s director of planetary science, Jim Green, said Wednesday.

Maven is not designed to land; rather, it will study Mars’ upper atmosphere from orbit.

Read the full story and events happening this Sunday care of

NuSTAR – Pulse of a Dead Star Powers Intense Gamma Rays


Our Milky Way galaxy is littered with the still-sizzling remains of exploded stars.

When the most massive stars explode as supernovas, they don’t fade into the night, but sometimes glow ferociously with high-energy gamma rays. What powers these energetic stellar remains?

NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, is helping to untangle the mystery. The observatory’s high-energy X-ray eyes were able to peer into a particular site of powerful gamma rays and confirm the source: A spinning, dead star called a pulsar. Pulsars are one of several types of stellar remnants that are left over when stars blow up in supernova explosions.

Follow the link above to the full story, courtesy of

MAVEN orbit insertion maneuver detail


Image credit: NASA

On September 21, 2014, the MAVEN spacecraft will enter orbit around Mars, completing an interplanetary journey of 10 months and 442 million miles (711 million kilometers). The orbit insertion maneuver will begin with six thruster engines firing briefly to damp out deviations in pointing. Then, the six main engines will quickly ignite and burn for 33 minutes to slow the craft, allowing it to be captured in an elliptical orbit with a period of 35 hours. Six smaller maneuvers will be performed later to bring the highest and lowest points of the orbit to the altitudes desired for the science orbit.

At its closest point, MAVEN will be flying in the upper atmosphere, about 90 miles (150 kilometers) above the surface. At its farthest point, the spacecraft will be about 3,900 mi. (6,300 km) above the surface, a vantage point that will allow it to observe the entire planet.

Following orbit insertion, MAVEN will begin a six-week commissioning phase that includes maneuvering into its final science orbit and testing the instruments and science-mapping sequences. Then, MAVEN will begin its one-Earth-year primary mission, during which it will make its key measurements.

MAVEN is the first spacecraft dedicated to exploring the tenuous upper atmosphere of Mars. The mission’s combination of detailed point measurements and global observations provides a powerful way to understand the properties of the upper atmosphere.

The primary mission includes five “deep-dip” campaigns, in which the altitude of MAVEN’s orbit will be lowered to about 77 mi. (125 km). These measurements will provide information down to the top of the well-mixed lower atmosphere, giving scientists a full profile of the top of the atmosphere.

Article courtesy of the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN Mission Facebook page

MAVEN: Targeting Mars – How to get from here to there


If you want to send a spacecraft from Earth to Mars, how would you get it there? You can’t aim straight at the Red Planet, because it’s moving around the Sun significantly slower than the Earth. Instead, you’ll have to wait for up to 26 months for a launch window, then carefully aim at a moving target.In November, 2013, the controllers of the #MAVENspacecraft did just that. When it arrives on September 21, 2014, MAVEN’s winding journey from Earth will culminate with a dramatic engine burn, pulling the spacecraft into an elliptical orbit.MAVEN will be the first spacecraft to study Mars’s upper atmosphere in detail, helping scientists understand how #Mars changed from a wet planet early in its history to the cold, dry world we see today.
View the video detailing MAVEN Planning from launch through MOI, Mars Orbit Insertion.
(Video credit: NASA/GSFC)
NASA Goddard 
— at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.

MAVEN spacecraft makes final preparations for Mars

Maven @ Mars

Image credit: NASA/GSFC

On Sept. 21, 2014, the MAVEN spacecraft will complete roughly 10 months of travel and enter orbit around the Red Planet.

The orbit-insertion maneuver will be carried out as the spacecraft approaches Mars, wrapping up an interplanetary journey of 442 million miles (711 million kilometers). Six thruster engines will fire briefly for a “settling” burn that damps out deviations in pointing. Then the six main engines will ignite two by two in quick succession and will burn for 33 minutes to slow the craft, allowing it to be captured in an elliptical orbit.

This milestone will mark the culmination of 11 years of concept and development for MAVEN, setting the stage for the mission’s science phase, which will investigate ‪#‎Mars‬ as no other mission has.

“We’re the first mission devoted to observing the upper atmosphere of Mars and how it interacts with the sun and the solar wind,” said Bruce Jakosky, principal investigator for ‪#‎MAVEN‬ at the University of Colorado Boulder.

These observations will help scientists determine how much gas from Mars’ atmosphere has been lost to space throughout the planet’s history and which processes have driven that loss.

Read the full feature:

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.