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.
January 22, 2014
Large international interest in riding with NASA’s next Mars Rover
The next NASA rover to be sent to the surface of Mars has received twice the usual amount of proposals for carrying science and exploration technology instruments. The agency is reviewing a total of 58 submitted proposals, 17 of which came from international partners, ahead of a proposed mission in 2020. Announced at the end of 2012, the next NASA rover will be based on the Curiosity Rover that is currently exploring the surface of Mars.
December 18, 2013
An Updated Mars Exploration Family Portrait
The Planetary Society
The Mars Exploration Family Portrait shows every dedicated spacecraft mission to Mars, and now includes India’s Mars Orbiter Mission and NASA's MAVEN. The dates listed are for launch.
December 2, 2013
India’s First Mars Probe ‘MOM’ Blasts Free of Earth Joining MAVEN in Race to Red Planet
India’s first ever Mars probe ‘MOM’ successfully fired its main engine today (Dec. 1), blasting the craft free of the Earth’s sphere of influence forever to begin her nearly yearlong momentous voyage to the Red Planet.
Indian space engineers initiated the 440 Newton liquid fueled engine firing precisely as planned at 00:49 hrs (IST) on Sunday, Dec. 1, 2013 during a critical nail-biting burn lasting some 22 minutes.
The Trans Mars Insertion (TMI) firing propelled India’s Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) away from Earth forever and placed the spacecraft on course for a rendezvous with the Red Planet on September 24, 2014 – where it will study the atmosphere and sniff for signals of methane.
Sunday’s Mars insertion burn imparted the vehicle with an incremental velocity of 647.96 meters per second (m/sec) consuming 198 kg of fuel.
November 18, 2013
NASA Launching New Mission to Mars Today: How to Watch Live
A NASA probe is scheduled to launch to Mars today (Nov. 18), and you can watch it live online.
The space agency's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution spacecraft (MAVEN) is scheduled to launch atop its Atlas 5 rocket at 1:28 p.m. EST (1828 GMT) from here at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. You can watch the launch live on SPACE.com via NASA TV, beginning at 11 a.m. EST (1600 GMT).
The $671 million MAVEN will investigate the atmosphere of Mars in order to understand what could have happened to the planet in the past. Scientists think that ancient Mars had a thick atmosphere that supported liquid water, however, at some point in the planet's past, that changed and Mars morphed into the cold desert it is now. Mars' atmosphere is now about 1 percent as thick as that of Earth's.
November 14, 2013
LeVar Burton Video Is the Best Explanation of a Mars Mission Yet
November 7, 2013
MAVEN's mysteries: An inside look at NASA's next Mars mission
NASA's MAVEN orbiter is designed to follow up on a huge question surrounding past findings about Mars: If the Red Planet was once far more hospitable to life, what happened?
"What I'm most looking for is clarity," the University of Colorado's Dave Brain, a co-investigator for the $670 million mission, told NBC News. "We're very certain that Mars has undergone some big change over the last several billion years."
Part of that big change had to do with Mars' atmosphere: Past studies have suggested that the carbon dioxide atmosphere was once thicker and more Earthlike, which would have kept the planet warmer and wetter. Now the atmospheric density is just 1 percent of Earth's, offering little protection from the sun's deadly ultraviolet blast. Where did the air go?
"There are only two answers to that question: You can go down, or you can go up," Brain said.
November 5, 2013
Why India's Mars Mission Is So Much Cheaper Than NASA's
Former NASA Administrator Daniel Goldin pioneered a "faster, better, cheaper" approach to America's space program, but he would have been hard-pressed to deliver a Mars mission for the bargain-basement price of India's first probe to the red planet, which blasted off Tuesday.
"India's Mars mission, with a budget of $73 million, is far cheaper than comparable missions including NASA's $671 million Maven satellite that is expected to set off for Mars later in November," reports The Wall Street Journal, which is among several publications noting the disparity between the cost of U.S. space missions and India's burgeoning program.
Even the project director of India's Mars orbiter mission has been quick to tout his country's frugality in space:
Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO)
"This is less than one-tenth of what the U.S. has spent on their Mars mission Maven," S. Arunan told reporters at a pre-launch news conference last week, according to Al-Jazeera, which added that "the cost-effectiveness of the mission is indeed turning out to be the highlight of the project, almost eclipsing the other aspects."
October 22, 2013
ISRO's Orbiter, NASA's Maven may 'cruise together' to Mars
The Times of India
India's preparations for its ambitious mission to the Red Planet are proceeding almost simultaneously with the American project on similar lines. On Sunday, ISRO completed the process of mating the 1,340kg Mars Orbiter with the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, marking a major step in the Rs 450-crore mission. An ISRO official told TOI that the process began on October 18.
On Monday, American space agency NASA moved the Atlas V rocket's payload to the clean room in preparation for the mating of the spacecraft-Mars Atmosphere And Volatile Evolution Mission (Maven)-with the launcher, which is scheduled to start in early November. ISRO's next step will be the closure of the heat-shield on Tuesday, when the launch authorization board will also reconvene at Sriharikota to firm up the launch date.
October 4, 2013
Mars mission preparations continue despite shutdown
Briefly threatened with missing some or all of its limited launch window to Mars because of the partial government shutdown, NASA's Maven mission on Thursday won approval from the space agency to resume preparations for a launch next month from Cape Canaveral.
"We have already restarted spacecraft processing at Kennedy Space Center, working toward being ready to launch on Nov. 18," said Bruce Jakosky, principal investigator for the $671 million mission. "We will continue to work over the next couple of days to identify any changes in our schedule or plans that are necessary to stay on track."
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