NASA’s ambitious Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN Mission (MAVEN) mission has witnessed an unexpected twist as the agency has tweaked its orbit in order to avoid the potential crash with a moon of Mars. MAVEN – the science satellite of NASA, which is orbiting Mars since 2013, was literary forced to take an exceptional evasive move in order to pass up the pile-up next with one of two small moons of Mars, said the US-based space agency on Thursday.
NASA successfully launched the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN Mission or MAVEN aboard an Atlas V launch vehicle at the starting point of the first launch window on 18th November 2013. On 22nd September 2014, MAVEN arrived at Mars and was docked into an areocentric elliptic orbit 6,200 km (3,900 mi) by 150 km (93 mi) located on the top of the Martian surface, and since then the spacecraft is studying the atmosphere and possibility of water presence of the planet.
However, in an unfortunate condition, the flight controllers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, found the spacecraft to run into the orbit of NASA’s one of Moon – Phobos and to avoid the collision, the controllers instructed the MAVEN spacecraft to change its path. Following the command, the orbital speed of the spaceship has fired up by about 1.3 feet per second (0.4 meters per second) on Tuesday.
According to the official report of NASA, small corrections have already made the engine of the spacecraft has already boosted up for avoiding the crash. This little modification is just enough for MAVEN to pass up the lumpy, crater-packed Martian – Phobos by some 2.5 minutes. As stated by NASA, MAVEN and Phobos had a good probability of running into each other on Monday, March 6, 2017. With one week advanced notice, the chances of the spacecraft and Mars moon arriving at the crossing point of their orbital course within nearly 7 seconds, resulting in a massive crash.
Phobos measures about ten by 14 miles by 11 miles (16 by 22.5 by 18 km), which is a bit bigger than the actual moon and hence it had a high possibility to collide with the NASA-owned spaceship if no timely actions were taken, said the agency on Thursday. Without the modification, MAVEN and the lumpy Martian moon would have arrived the same orbital point in the space within seven seconds of each other on next Monday, resulting in the celestial crash. Now, in its new course, MAVEN will let pass Phobos by some 2-1/2 minutes, NASA said.
MAVEN is currently orbiting in an egg-shaped course that frequently crosses the orbits of other science satellites and one of Martian moons – Phobos too. Phobos’ course is positioned at just 6,000 miles (9,656 km) above the Martian surface – which is much closer than any other known moon to the planets of solar system. At this distance, Phobos trips around the Red Planet three times a day.