October 14, 2014
Hydrogen cloud blows off Mars
The first images from NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft show a planet in the process of losing parts of itself. Streams of hydrogen atoms drift away from the red planet, into the depths of space. The pictures are the first clear look at how crucial elements erode away from the Martian atmosphere, says Bruce Jakosky, a planetary scientist at the University of Colorado Boulder and the mission’s principal investigator. MAVEN’s goal is to measure how the solar wind and other factors nibble away at Mars’s atmosphere, so that scientists can better extrapolate how the once-thick atmosphere has thinned over billions of years. That process transformed Mars from a relatively warm, wet planet into a mostly dry, mostly frozen wasteland.
October 2, 2014
India, U.S. Agree to Joint Exploration of Mars
The Wall Street Journal
India’s satellite Mangalyaan has only been orbiting Mars for a week, but already space scientists back on Earth are planning their next mission: this time in tandem with the U.S.
On Tuesday, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration signed an agreement to work with the Indian Space Research Organisation during future explorations of Mars. They also agreed to join forces in observations and scientific analysis from their respective satellites currently orbiting the red planet.
September 24, 2014
MAVEN Spacecraft Returns First Mars Observations
NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft has obtained its first observations of the extended upper atmosphere surrounding Mars.
The Imaging Ultraviolet Spectrograph (IUVS) instrument obtained these false-color images eight hours after the successful completion of Mars orbit insertion by the spacecraft at 10:24 p.m. EDT Sunday, Sept. 21, after a 10-month journey.
The image shows the planet from an altitude of 36,500 km in three ultraviolet wavelength bands. Blue shows the ultraviolet light from the sun scattered from atomic hydrogen gas in an extended cloud that goes to thousands of kilometers above the planet’s surface. Green shows a different wavelength of ultraviolet light that is primarily sunlight reflected off of atomic oxygen, showing the smaller oxygen cloud. Red shows ultraviolet sunlight reflected from the planet’s surface; the bright spot in the lower right is light reflected either from polar ice or clouds.
Mars Robotic Spacecraft Population Reaches New High
September has shaped up to be a very exciting month in the annals of Mars exploration. Two new spacecraft, NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) mission and India's first interplanetary mission, the Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), have now entered orbit around the Red Planet.
The new arrivals bring the population of active Mars missions to seven—a record high, confirms Bruce Betts of The Planetary Society, a space advocacy organization. On the ground now are Opportunity, which landed in 2004, and NASA's Curiosity rover, which recently entered its third year of operation.
MAVEN and MOM join a complement of three orbiters: NASA's 13-year-old Mars Odyssey spacecraft, the European Space Agency's 11-year-old Mars Express spacecraft, and NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which arrived in 2006.
September 21, 2014
MAVEN arrives at Mars for atmospheric study mission
After a 10 month journey between planets, NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft has arrived at the Mars on Sunday, 21 September 2014 for a mission dedicated to detailed exploration of the Martian atmosphere. Insertion into Martian orbit occurred at around 21:50 EDT, followed by a commissioning period and observation of comet Siding Spring throughout October.
LIVE Now: MAVEN Arrives at Mars
NASA's Mars MAVEN mission set to enter Red Planet's orbit Sunday
The Denver Post
MAVEN has traveled 442 million miles since its November launch from Cape Canaveral, Fla. The $671 million mission has deep Colorado roots: It was built in Littleton by Lockheed Martin Space Systems; Centennial-based United Launch Alliance provided the launch vehicle; mission operations are being handled at Lockheed's Waterton Canyon facility in Jefferson County; and science operations are being led by University of Colorado at Boulder's Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics. About $300 million of the project budget remained in Colorado, CU officials say.
NASA Mars Orbiter Arrives at Red Planet Tonight: Watch It Live
A NASA spacecraft built to study the atmosphere of Mars like never before will arrive at the Red Planet tonight (Sept. 21) and you can watch it live online. After 10 months in deep-space, NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) spacecraft is expected to enter orbit around Mars and begin a one-year mission studying the planet's upper atmosphere. The Mars arrival will cap a 442 million-mile (711 million kilometers) trek across the solar system.
September 18, 2014
MAVEN spacecraft close to entering Mars orbit -- and it won't be alone
NASA says its latest Mars-exploring spacecraft is on track to fire up its thrusters and enter orbit this Sunday night, completing a 10-month journey of 442 million miles.
NASA's MAVEN craft will live up to its formal name -- the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution craft -- by helping scientists figure out how ancient Mars changed so dramatically into the planet we know today.
It will be the first mission devoted to studying the upper Martian atmosphere as a key to understanding the history of Mars' climate, water and habitability.
August 15, 2014
Mars Orbiters Duck for Cover
Sky & Telescope
As Comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring hurtles toward Mars, NASA is taking steps to protect its Martian orbiters. The plan? Use the planet itself as a shield between the spacecraft and the comet’s potentially dangerous debris.
As part of its long-term Mars Exploration Program, NASA currently has two spacecraft orbiting the Red Planet, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) and Mars Odyssey, with Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) set to arrive in late September. Teams of scientists at the University of Maryland, the Planetary Science Institute, and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) have used data from both Earth-based and space telescopes to model Siding Spring’s journey through the inner solar system, and determined that there is no risk of the comet colliding with Mars. However, at its closest approach to Mars on October 19, 2014, Siding Spring will come within 82,000 miles of the Red Planet, which is about a third of the distance from Earth to the Moon. The closest comets ever to whiz by Earth have been at least ten times more distant.
August 12, 2014
Colliding Atmospheres: Mars vs Comet Siding Spring
On October 19, 2014, Comet Siding Spring will pass by Mars only 132,000 km away--which would be like a comet passing about 1/3 of the distance between Earth and the Moon.
The nucleus of the comet won't hit Mars, but there could be a different kind of collision.
"We hope to witness two atmospheres colliding," explains David Brain of the University of Colorado's Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP). "This is a once in a lifetime event!" Everyone knows that planets have atmospheres. Lesser known is that comets do, too. The atmosphere of a comet, called its "coma," is made of gas and dust that spew out of the sun-warmed nucleus. The atmosphere of a typical comet is wider than Jupiter.
"It is possible," says Brain, "that the atmosphere of the comet will interact with the atmosphere of Mars. This could lead to some remarkable effects—including Martian auroras."
August 11, 2014
Mars-Bound Probes Built by India and NASA Are Nearing the Red Planet
Two Mars-bound spacecraft are both in excellent health ahead of their September arrivals in orbit around the Red Planet, managers for both missions report.
India's Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) is more than 80 percent of the way to Mars and performing well, according to a Facebook update posted July 21 by the Indian Space Research Organization. MOM is expected to enter orbit on Sept. 14.
The second craft, NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN), is also performing well. MAVEN is scheduled to embark on its final approach to the Red Planet on Sept. 21, one week after MOM's arrival, principal investigator Bruce Jakosky said. After months of checkouts and tests, the spacecraft will now be left quiet until close to the big day.
June 23, 2014
India’s 1st Mars Mission Celebrates 100 Days and 100 Million Kilometers from Mars Orbit Insertion Firing – Cruising Right behind NASA’s MAVEN
India’s inaugural voyager to the Red Planet, the Mars Orbiter Mission or MOM, has just celebrated 100 days and 100 million kilometers out from Mars on June 16, until the crucial Mars Orbital Insertion (MOI) engine firing that will culminate in a historic rendezvous on September 24, 2014.
MOM is cruising right behind NASA’s MAVEN orbiter which celebrated 100 days out from Mars on Friday the 13th of June. MAVEN arrives about 48 hours ahead of MOM on September 21, 2014.
June 19, 2014
Comet’s Brush With Mars Offers Opportunity, Not Danger
University of Maryland
Comet Siding Spring will brush astonishingly close to Mars later this year – close enough to raise concerns about the safety of three spacecraft orbiting the Red Planet. But after observing Siding Spring through a satellite-mounted telescope, University of Maryland comet experts found that it poses little danger to the Mars craft. The NASA spacecraft will be able to get an unprecedented close look at the changes happening to this “fresh” comet as it nears the sun – as well as any changes its passing may trigger in the Martian atmosphere.
Fresh comets like Siding Spring, which have never before approached the sun, contain some of the most ancient material scientists can study. The UMD astronomers’ observations are part of a two-year-long research campaign to watch how the comet's activity changes during its travels.
March 20, 2014
Studying the Solar Wind on Mars
Robert Lin, the late director of the Space Sciences Laboratory, discusses how NASA's MAVEN spacecraft will study the interaction of the Martian atmosphere with the solar wind. MAVEN's findings will reveal how Mars lost its early atmosphere, turning it from a warm, wet planet into thecold, dry one that we see today.
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