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.

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)

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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.