Nasa spacecraft to begin orbiting Mars within days

2014-09-18 08:11
(Shutterstock)

(Shutterstock) (Shutterstock)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Washington - An unmanned Nasa spacecraft launched last year to study the history of climate change on Mars is to begin orbiting the Red Planet on Sunday after a 10-month journey.

The Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) probe is different from past Nasa missions because it focuses on the mysteries of the never-before-studied upper atmosphere.

It is designed to investigate what happened to the carbon dioxide in air and the water on the surface to transform what was once a wet, warm planet to a dry, cool one.

MAVEN's findings are expected to help pave the way for a future visit by humans to the Red Planet, perhaps as early as 2030.

MAVEN has travelled 711m km and is nearly ready to make its way into Mars' orbit, Nasa said Wednesday.

The orbit-insertion manoeuvre is scheduled for 21:50 Eastern Daylight Time on, the US space agency said.

It will "begin with the brief firing of six small thruster engines to steady the spacecraft", Nasa said in a statement.

Interaction with sun and solar wind  

"The engines will ignite and burn for 33 minutes to slow the craft, allowing it to be pulled into an elliptical orbit with a period of 35 hours."

Once MAVEN begins circling Mars, it will enter a six-week phase for tests.

"Thereafter, MAVEN will begin its one-Earth-year primary mission to take measurements of the composition, structure and escape of gases in Mars' upper atmosphere and its interaction with the sun and solar wind."

Much of MAVEN's year-long mission will be spent circling the planet 6 000km above the surface.

However, it will execute five deep dips to a distance of just 125km above the Martian landscape to get readings of the atmosphere at various levels.

"The MAVEN science mission focuses on answering questions about what happened to the water and carbon dioxide present in the Mars system several billion years ago," said Bruce Jakosky, MAVEN principal investigator from Colorado University-Boulder's Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics.

"These are important questions for understanding the history of Mars, its climate and its potential to support at least microbial life."

Read more on:    nasa  |  climate change

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.