An announcement from the National Space Society:
National Space Society Launches “Enterprise In Space”
Washington DC – September 24, 2014 – The National Space Society (NSS) is launching a new project called “Enterprise In Space” (EIS). This project will design, build, launch, orbit, re-enter, tour, and display a science-fiction-inspired satellite as a science education and technology demonstration project for all ages and as a tribute to the great visionaries of science and science fiction.
Inspired by the classic science fiction writers of the 20th century including Heinlein, Clark and Roddenberry, the EIS project is a grassroots effort by a dedicated team of aerospace, information technology, and education veterans. The goal of the EIS project is to launch an orbital mission by 2019 that will carry 100 or more competitively selected student experiments from around the globe, and to test out new space technology. This is an opportunity for people to directly support something truly historic. EIS will reach out to people with interests in space, science, education, astronomy, cosmology, and science fiction.
A three-minute video explains the entire idea at the Enterprise in Space website (www.enterpriseinspace.org).
“The National Space Society is proud to launch the Enterprise in Space project to the world,” said National Space Society Senior Vice President Bruce Pittman. “This is an opportunity for people worldwide to come together to help transform this exciting concept into a remarkable reality. EIS is yet another example of the burgeoning free enterprise use of space.”
What began as a dream by Oregonian science fiction and space enthusiast Shawn Case four years ago is now a major NSS project. Case and his team have prepared a well-defined project plan to launch an orbiter dubbed “NSS Enterprise,” with its artistic design to be conceived by a public competition. The spacecraft will re-enter from orbit for retrieval, go on a tour along with the results of the student experiments, and ultimately be displayed in a major museum along with the names of all who helped fund it.
Case has assembled a professional team skilled in project management, aerospace, social media, and education to carry out the project. Case believes that giving each donor the opportunity to be a virtual crew member and get his or her name on an electronic chip to be carried aloft on this historic flight will greatly increase interest in the project and in space exploration.
Famed Apollo 11 moonwalker and NSS governor Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin endorses EIS: “There’s an exciting new project called Enterprise In Space that I want to tell you about. Together with the National Space Society, the Enterprise In Space project will launch an eight-foot Enterprise satellite into orbit and bring it back to Earth. This is an educational and inspirational tribute to all Enterprise ships in history, to science visionaries, and to the vision of the Great Bird of the Galaxy himself, Gene Roddenberry. My name has been to space and back. Now it’s your turn. Rendezvous with me and support the Enterprise in Space project. Help make history all over again.”
Proposals for experiments to be flown on the orbiter will be sought from students of all nations and ages, from kindergarten through university. Lynne F. Zielinski, a national award-winning educator, NSS Director and Vice President of Public Affairs, will head the EIS education team. “In my 32 years of teaching, I have worked with hundreds of students to send experiments aboard six space shuttle and nine NASA sub-orbital rocket flights,” Zielinski said. “Students really have a lot to offer. I’ve seen the potential of students when they’re excited about being a real part of space flight exploration. Age is no barrier. They quickly adopt cutting-edge ideas and technology.”
The project’s appeal to those interested in space, science, and education goes hand-in-hand with its appeal to science fiction fans, many of whom have a naturally optimistic view of the future and of humans living and working in space–the goals that NSS has promoted since its founding.
Great visionary science fiction writers created hopes that people would be on the Moon and on the way to Mars by now. Let’s help to turn science fiction into science reality, bridging the conceptual gap through education, imagination, and inspiration. Through real-world enterprise, the people of Earth will contribute to the vision of Enterprise In Space.
1. Monday, Sept. 29, 2014: 2-3:30 PM PDT (5-6:30 PM EDT, 4-5:30 PM CDT): No show today as I am out of town on a special business trip.
2. Tuesday, Sept. 30 , 2014:,7-8:30 PM PDT (10-11:30 PM EDT, 9-10:30 PM CDT): No show as I am returning from my special business trip.
3. Friday, Oct. 3, 2014, 9:30 -11 AM PDT (12;30-2 PM EDT; 11:30-1 PM CDT):TBD. Please check the website newsletter by the of the middle of the week for details for this program. See www.thespaceshow.com/newsletterfinal.html. .
4. Sunday, Oct. 5, 2014, 12-1:30 PM PDT (3-4:30 PM EDT, 2-3:30 PM CDT). OPEN LINES. All space and STEM topics welcome. First time callers are encouraged to give us a call.
The Space Show is a project of the One Giant Leap Foundation.
The panel included:
- Mae Jemison – an American physician and NASA astronaut.
- Richard Rhodes – the author or editor of twenty-four books including The Making of the Atomic Bomb
- Bill Nye – scientist, engineer, comedian, author, and inventor
- Dana Backman – director of SOFIA’s Outreach programs.
- Moderator: Adrian Brown – a planetary scientist at the SETI Institute
The world music ensemble BELLA GAIA provides
an unprecedented audiovisual experience that combines NASA satellite imagery of Earth, time lapse nature photography, and cultural heritage footage with stirring live performances of music and dance from around the world.
Inspired by astronauts who spoke of the life changing power of seeing the Earth from space, director-composer Kenji Williams’ award winning BELLA GAIA successfully simulates the Overview Effect from space flight, by using NASA supercomputer data-visualizations to explore the relationship between humans and nature through time and space, with a “message of oneness amidst a deeply moving and shimmering soundscape that combines sacred dance with gorgeous sets and stunning imagery” (Blog Talk Radio).
They will release their debut album, BELLA GAIA – Beautiful Earth, on November 11th. Find more about the album and performance plans in their latest newsletter: World renowned cosmic world music ensemble releases new single
Here is the track Biosphere Pulse:
You can listen to the entire album at BELLA GAIA – Beautiful Earth on SoundCloud.
Here is a video from BELLA GAIA:
Rick Boozer on his Astro Maven blog has posted the third installment of his Photometry with AIP4WIN: a Tutorial, which is aimed at astronomers both amateur and professional:
From Part 1:
The science of photometry can be used by both amateur astronomers and professionals for some very advanced scientific work. You can detect the light changes caused by eclipsing binary stars, plot the changes in luminosity of a variable star and even detect an exoplanet orbiting another star. This tutorial will be your step-by-step guide on how to employ the powerful Magnitude Measurement Tool that comes with the renowned astronomical imaging software known as AIP4WIN by Richard Berry and Robert Burnell. Special thanks to Mr. Berry for giving me permission to include screen images and extensive operating details from AIP4WIN.
Here’s this week’s NASA video report on activities related to the International Space Station:
A new NASA sponsored contest:
Registration is open for the 2015 NASA Centennial Challenges’ Mars Ascent Vehicle (MAV) Prize, which will take place April 7-12, 2015. The competition carries a prize purse of $50,000 and will be held in Huntsville, Alabama, in conjunction with the NASA Student Launch event, an academic engineering design challenge that provides resources and experiences for students and faculty.
The Mars Ascent Vehicle Prize will aid NASA in advancing technologies that could be used to return samples from Mars in the future. The challenge focuses on simulating the collection of samples from the Martian surface, placing them into Mars orbit for collection and returning them to Earth. This new challenge is open to both academic and non-academic teams to demonstrate technologies that may be relevant to potential future NASA Science Mission Directorate Mars missions. This challenge has no relation to NASA missions currently in development such as the Mars 2020.
“The MAV Prize is an opportunity for us to team up with an established academic competition and invite teams of all kinds to work in parallel on technologies that will aid in future Mars exploration,” said Sam Ortega, Centennial Challenges program manager.
The Challenge requires reliable, autonomous sample insertion into the rocket, launch from the surface, and deployment of the sample container. Innovative technology from this competition could be considered in future planning for a Mars exploration mission.
Centennial Challenges will award prizes for successful demonstration of an end-to-end autonomous operation to sequentially accomplish the following tasks: picking up the sample, inserting the sample into a single stage solid-propellant rocket in a horizontal position, erecting the rocket, launching the rocket to an altitude of 3,000 feet, deploying a sample container, and landing the container safely while following the National Association of Rocketry guidelines.
The first-place award is $25,000; second-place is $15,000; and third-place is $10,000. Competing teams will be eligible for prize money only after the successful completion of all the required tasks.
Interested teams may apply for the challenge by submitting a registration proposal to the Student Launch project office. Details for submitting the proposal and complete rules may be found in the handbook.
The Centennial Challenges program is part of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, which is innovating, developing, testing and flying hardware for use in NASA’s future missions. It is managed out of Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.
For more information about the MAV Prize, visit: www.nasa.gov/mavprize
For more information about NASA Student Launch, visit: go.usa.gov/dW9w
An announcement from NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope program:
Smallest exoplanet ever found to have water vapour
Astronomers using data from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, the Spitzer Space Telescope, and the Kepler Space Telescope have discovered clear skies and steamy water vapour on a planet outside our Solar System. The planet, known as HAT-P-11b, is about the size of Neptune, making it the smallest exoplanet ever on which water vapour has been detected. The results will appear in the online version of the journal Nature on 24 September 2014.
This is an artist’s concept of the silhouette of the extrasolar planet HAT-P-11b
as it passes its parent star. The planet was observed as it crossed in front of its star in order to learn more about its atmosphere.
In this method, known as transmission or absorption spectroscopy, starlight filters through the rim of the planet’s atmosphere and into the telescope. If molecules like water vapour are present, they absorb some of the starlight, leaving distinct signatures in the light that reaches our telescopes. Using this technique, astronomers discovered clear skies and steamy water vapour on the planet.
The discovery is a milestone on the road to eventually finding molecules in the atmospheres of smaller, rocky planets more akin to Earth. Clouds in the atmospheres of planets can block the view of what lies beneath them. The molecular makeup of these lower regions can reveal important information about the composition and history of a planet. Finding clear skies on a Neptune-size planet is a good sign that some smaller planets might also have similarly good visibility.
“When astronomers go observing at night with telescopes, they say ‘clear skies’ to mean good luck,” said Jonathan Fraine of the University of Maryland, USA, lead author of the study. “In this case, we found clear skies on a distant planet. That’s lucky for us because it means clouds didn’t block our view of water molecules.”
This image, taken with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope’s Wide Field Camera 3, shows the star HAT-P-11.
Not visible here is a Neptune-sized planet named HAT-P-11b which orbits the star. Astronomers have discovered clear skies and steamy water vapour on the planet. It is the smallest planet ever for which water vapour has been detected.
The small bright object next to the star is not the planet in question; in fact it is not a planet at all, but another star.
The reason for the graininess in this image is that it is a very short exposure. The star itself is so bright that it is saturated, it would otherwise be a small dot like the faint star next to it. The rings and the cross are caused by the diffraction — the bouncing of light — inside the telescope.
HAT-P-11b is a so-called exo-Neptune — a Neptune-sized planet that orbits another star. It is located 120 light-years away in the constellation of Cygnus (The Swan). Unlike Neptune, this planet orbits closer to its star, making one lap roughly every five days. It is a warm world thought to have a rocky core, a mantle of fluid and ice, and a thick gaseous atmosphere. Not much else was known about the composition of the planet, or other exo-Neptunes like it, until now.
Part of the challenge in analysing the atmospheres of planets like this is their size. Larger Jupiter-like planets are easier to observe and researchers have already been able to detect water vapour in the atmospheres of some of these giant planets. Smaller planets are more difficult to probe — and all the smaller ones observed to date have appeared to be cloudy.
The team used Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 and a technique called transmission spectroscopy, in which a planet is observed as it crosses in front of its parent star. Starlight filters through the rim of the planet’s atmosphere and into the telescope. If molecules like water vapour are present, they absorb some of the starlight, leaving distinct signatures in the light that reaches our telescopes.
“We set out to look at the atmosphere of HAT-P-11b without knowing if its weather would be cloudy or not,” said Nikku Madhusudhan, from the University of Cambridge, UK, part of the study team. “By using transmission spectroscopy, we could use Hubble to detect water vapour in the planet. This told us that the planet didn’t have thick clouds blocking the view and is a very hopeful sign that we can find and analyse more cloudless, smaller, planets in the future. It is groundbreaking!”
Before the team could celebrate they had to be sure that the water vapour was from the planet and not from cool starspots — “freckles” on the face of stars — on the parent star. Luckily, Kepler had been observing the patch of sky in which HAT-P-11b happens to lie for years. Those visible-light data were combined with targeted infraredSpitzer observations. By comparing the datasets the astronomers could confirm that the starspots were too hot to contain any water vapour, and so the vapour detected must belong to the planet.
The results from all three telescopes demonstrate that HAT-P-11b is blanketed in water vapour, hydrogen gas, and other yet-to-be-identified molecules. So in fact it is not only the smallest planet to have water vapour found in its atmosphere but is also the smallest planet for which molecules of any kind have been directly detected using spectroscopy . Theorists will be drawing up new models to explain the planet’s makeup and origins.
Zoom in on the star:
Although HAT-P-11b is dubbed as an exo-Neptune it is actually quite unlike any planet in our Solar System. It is thought that exo-Neptunes may have diverse compositions that reflect their formation histories. New findings such as this can help astronomers to piece together a theory for the origin of these distant worlds.
“We are working our way down the line, from hot Jupiters to exo-Neptunes,” said Drake Deming, a co-author of the study also from University of Maryland, USA. “We want to expand our knowledge to a diverse range of exoplanets.”
The astronomers plan to examine more exo-Neptunes in the future, and hope to apply the same method to smaller super-Earths — massive, rocky cousins to our home world with up to ten times the mass of Earth. Our Solar System does not contain a super-Earth, but other telescopes are finding them around other stars in droves and the NASA/ESA James Webb Space Telescope, scheduled to launch in 2018, will search super-Earths for signs of water vapour and other molecules. However, finding signs of oceans and potentially habitable worlds is likely a way off.
This work is important for future studies of super-Earths and even smaller planets. It could allow astronomers to pick out in advance the planets with atmospheres clear enough for molecules to be detected. Once again, astronomers will be crossing their fingers for clear skies.
 Molecular hydrogen has been inferred to exist in many planets, including planets smaller than HAT-P-11b, but no molecule has actually been detected, using spectroscopy, in a planet this small, until now.
In this show, Amanda Bush talks about the following topics:
01:08 – 03:12 NASA picks its Rocket Rides to the ISS
03:13 – 05:16 Jeff Bezos brings a Rocket Engine to Washington
05:17 – 06:46 Maven reaches Mars, MOM to follow
06:47 – 07:36 Curiosity reaches Mount Sharp Base Camp
07:37 – 09:30 Rosetta checks out its Comet
Previous Virtual SpaceTV 3D shows are available on the HobbySpace Youtube Channel.
These videos are intended as educational programs and as demonstrations of an experimental technique for generating animated presentations. The show was generated autonomously by software according to a text script. The project is described in the Virtual Producer whitepaper (Release 1.1, Oct.2013, pdf). For further information contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
An announcement from ESA/Hubble:
Hubble snaps what looks like a young galaxy in the local Universe
Astronomers usually have to peer very far into the distance to see back in time, and view the Universe as it was when it was young. This new NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image of galaxy DDO 68, otherwise known as UGC 5340, was thought to offer an exception. This ragged collection of stars and gas clouds looks at first glance like a recently-formed galaxy in our own cosmic neighbourhood. But, is it really as young as it looks?
Astronomers have studied galactic evolution for decades, gradually improving our knowledge of how galaxies have changed over cosmic history. The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has played a big part in this, allowing astronomers to see further into the distance, and hence further back in time, than any telescope before it — capturing light that has taken billions of years to reach us.
Zooming in on dwarf galaxy DDO 68
Looking further into the very distant past to observe younger and younger galaxies is very valuable, but it is not without its problems for astronomers. All newly-born galaxies lie very far away from us and appear very small and faint in the images. On the contrary, all the galaxies near to us appear to be old ones.
DDO 68, captured here by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, was one of the best candidates so far discovered for a newly-formed galaxy in our cosmic neighbourhood. The galaxy lies around 39 million light-years away from us; although this distance may seem huge, it is in fact roughly 50 times closer than the usual distances to such galaxies, which are on the order of several billions of light years.
By studying galaxies of various ages, astronomers have found that those early in their lives are fundamentally different from those that are older. DDO 68 looks to be relatively youthful based on its structure, appearance, and composition. However, without more detailed modelling astronomers cannot be sure and they think it may be older than it lets on.
Elderly galaxies tend to be larger thanks to collisions and mergers with other galaxies that have bulked them out, and are populated with a variety of different types of stars — including old, young, large, and small ones. Their chemical makeup is different too. Newly-formed galaxies have a similar composition to the primordial matter created in the Big Bang (hydrogen, helium and a little lithium), while older galaxies are enriched with heavier elements forged in stellar furnaces over multiple generations of stars.
DDO 68 is the best representation yet of a primordial galaxy in the local Universe as it appears at first glance to be very low in heavier elements — whose presence would be a sign of the existence of previous generations of stars.
Panning across DDO 68
Hubble observations were carried out in order to study the properties of the galaxy’s light, and to confirm whether or not there are any older stars in DDO 68. If there are, which there seem to be, this would disprove the hypothesis that it is entirely made up of young stars. If not, it would confirm the unique nature of this galaxy. More complex modelling is needed before we can know for sure but Hubble’s picture certainly gives us a beautiful view of this unusual object.
The image is made up of exposures in visible and infrared light taken with Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys.
From the caption:
Philosophers have long considered the possibility that we live in an artificial or simulated reality. Dr. Beane gives a short overview of some of the simulation arguments/scenarios that he personally finds most compelling.
Dr. Beane then attempts to frame the simulation argument in the context of science. In particular, discusses recent work which suggests various observational tests of the hypothesis that we are currently living in a simulated universe. These include studies of the cosmic microwave background, high-energy cosmic rays, and high-precision terrestrial experiments.
A video of three rocket motor tests at the FAR (Friends of Amateur Rocketry) site in Mojave, California:
From the caption:
The first was a successful M-class 6-grain APCP 75mm motor by Eric Beckner. The second is a successful K-class 2-grain 89mm sugar motor by Rick Maschek for the Sugar Shot to Space program using sorbitol as the fuel and does not have a core, it burns on two exterior flat sides of the grains. The third and final test is a 6-grain 4.5″ (115mm) sugar motor using dextrose as the fuel by Randy Dorman and his son Theo. Unfortunately, the motor over-pressurized and CATOed at start up.
India’s Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) probe successfully entered into orbit around the Red Planet tonight. (See earlier post about the project.) Launched on November 5th, 2013, the probe (also called Mangalyaan) needed to fire its engine for nearly 24 minutes to slow down sufficiently to be captured by Mars’ gravity.
The rocket and the spacecraft use Indian technology. Previously, only NASA, the European Space Agency, and the former space program of the former Soviet Union succeeded in sending a spacecraft to Mars. And India is the first to succeed on its first try.
- Mangalyaan LIVE: India creates history, reaches Mars orbit on maiden attempt – Hindustan Times
- BBC News – India Mars satellite Mangalyaan successfully enters orbit
- India’s MOM spacecraft arrives at Mars -NASASpaceFlight.com – lots of details about the rocket, spacecraft, and mission design.
There are now five spacecraft (NASA’s Mars Odyssey and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and ESA’s Mars Express) in orbit around Mars and two rovers (Curiosity and Opportunity) in action on the surface of Mars.
The famous nickel mine at Sudbury in Ontario, Canada was created by a huge asteroid that hit the spot over 1.8 billions ago. It left an impact crater known as the Sudbury Basin. Such asteroid impacts provided most of the heavy metals accessible to mines because most of the metals in the earth settled into the core of the planet: Rare Earth – Brian Koberlein –
… fortunately Earth was also bombarded by meteors in its early history, and this made mining practical in two ways. The first is that asteroids and meteors themselves contain vast quantities of heavy metals. By some estimates, a single mile-wide asteroid could contain twenty trillion dollars worth of precious metals. Since most of the asteroid bombardments occurred after Earth’s crust formed, these metals were deposited near Earth’s surface, making them easier to obtain. There is some evidence that most of accessible heavy metals are extraterrestrial in origin due to this process.
The second is due to large impacts such as Sudbury. With large impacts, part of the Earth’s crust are melted. As a result, deposited material then settles in layers as it re-cools. Heavier elements settle at the bottom of the crater, while lighter ones settle near the top. As a result, heavy metals are concentrated at the bottom layer of the crater, producing rich veins of ore. Impacts can also create other useful byproducts, such as impact diamonds and pockets of oil. Chicxulub crater (caused by the famous dinosaur extinction asteroid) near the Gulf of Mexico is a region with plentiful oil deposits, for example.
Here’s a nicely made video describing the formation of the Sudbury basin:
1. SPECIAL PROGRAM:: Monday, 22, 2014: 9:30-10 AM PDT (12:30 -1:30 PM EDT, 10:30-11:30 AM CDT): We welcome back DR. PAT HYNES to discuss this year’s Personal & Commercial Spaceflight Symposium in Las Cruces, NM on Oc.t. 15-16, 2014. For more information, go to their website http://www.ispcs.com.
2. SPECIAL WEBINAR: Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2014, 7 PM PDT (10 PM EDT, 9 PM CDT): Welcome to our SWF sponsored webinar regarding “The role of satellites in Earth disaster management“. Our guests are Laura Delgardo Lopez who is the Project Manager at Secure World Foundation, Yana Gevorgyan, the Senior International Relations Exers at the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and Yusuke Murakki who is the Space Technology Specialist at the Asian Development Bank. You can listen to this show as a regular Space Show audio program or watch the live webinar broadcast at www.ustream.tv/channel/the-space-show.
3. Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2014,7–8:30 PM PDT (10-11:30 PM EDT, 9-10:30 PM CDT): We welcomed. FRANK MARTIN to discuss the recent NRC Pathways Human Spaceflight study. You can freely download the study at www.nap.edu/download.php?record_id=18801#.
4. Friday, Sept. 26, 2014, 9:30 -11 AM PDT (12;30-2 PM EDT; 11:30-1 PM CDT): We welcome back author ROD PYLE regarding his new book, Curiosity: An Inside look at the Mars Rover Mission and the People Who Made It Happen.
The Space Show is a project of the One Giant Leap Foundation.
[ Update Sept.22.14: The 4 second test of the engine was successful: Mangalyaan engine test-fire successful, all set for Mars now - Hindustan Times.]
Following jus two days after the arrival of NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft at Mars (see previous post), India’s Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) probe will go into orbit around the Red Planet on Wednesday September 24th.
This is the first deep space mission by India. The probe was launched into earth orbit on Nov. 5, 2013 via a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) rocket from the Sriharikota spaceport in Andhra Pradeshand.
On Dec. 1, 2013 MOM fired its engine to send it on a trajectory to intersect with Mars this week.
On Monday Sept. 22, there will be a brief 4 second firing test of the engine to insure it is still working correctly after its long dormancy. Then on Wednesday MOM will fire the engine for 24 minutes to go into orbit around Mars.
A top goal of the Mars Orbiter Mission is to strengthen the technical capabilities of the Indian space program. The scientific goals of the mission are to study the Martian atmosphere and the morphology and mineralogy of the planet’s surface.
Articles about the mission:
- India’s Mangalyaan all set to enter Mars orbit – India Today
- US, Indian probes prepare to go into Mars orbit – The Hindu
- Indian Probe Scheduled To Begin Orbiting Mars Sept. 24 – SpaceNews.com
Indian space agency info about the mission:
- Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM)
- Mars Orbiter Insertion – ISRO (pdf) – slide presentation
- Updates on the Mars Orbiter Mission – ISRO
A documentary about the mission:
NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft is set to go into orbit around the Red Planet this evening at 9:50 pm EDT. NASA TV coverage of the event starts at 9:30 pm EDT and lasts till 10:45 pm EDT.
[ Update 11:30 pm EDT Sept.21, 2014: The MAVEN spacecraft this evening entered Mars orbit after firing its engine successfully : NASA’s Newest Mars Mission Spacecraft Enters Orbit around Red Planet - NASA
NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft successfully entered Mars’ orbit at 10:24 p.m. EDT Sunday, Sept. 21, where it now will prepare to study the Red Planet’s upper atmosphere as never done before. MAVEN is the first spacecraft dedicated to exploring the tenuous upper atmosphere of Mars.
Below is a NASA item about the arrival of MAVEN at Mars:
NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft is nearing its scheduled Sept. 21 insertion into Martian orbit after completing a 10-month interplanetary journey of 442 million miles (711 million kilometers).
Flight Controllers at Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Littleton, Colorado, will be responsible for the health and safety of the spacecraft throughout the process. The spacecraft’s mission timeline will place the spacecraft in orbit at approximately 6:50 p.m. PDT (9:50 p.m. EDT).
“So far, so good with the performance of the spacecraft and payloads on the cruise to Mars,” said David Mitchell, MAVEN project manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “The team, the flight system, and all ground assets are ready for Mars orbit insertion.”
The orbit-insertion maneuver will begin with the brief firing of six small thruster engines to steady the spacecraft. 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.
Following orbit insertion, MAVEN will begin a six-week commissioning phase that includes maneuvering the spacecraft into its final orbit and testing its instruments and science-mapping commands. 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.
“The MAVEN science mission focuses on answering questions about where did the water that was present on early Mars go, about where did the carbon dioxide go,” said Bruce Jakosky, MAVEN principal investigator from the University of Colorado, 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.”
MAVEN launched Nov. 18, 2013, from Cape Canaveral, Florida, carrying three instrument packages. It is the first spacecraft dedicated to exploring the upper atmosphere of Mars. The mission’s combination of detailed measurements at specific points in Mars’ atmosphere and global imaging provides a powerful tool for understanding the properties of the Red Planet’s upper atmosphere.
“MAVEN is another NASA robotic scientific explorer that is paving the way for our journey to Mars,” said Jim Green, director of the Planetary Science Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “Together, robotics and humans will pioneer the Red Planet and the solar system to help answer some of humanity’s fundamental questions about life beyond Earth.”
The spacecraft’s principal investigator is based at the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at University of Colorado, Boulder. The university provided two science instruments and leads science operations, as well as education and public outreach, for the mission.
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, manages the project and also provided two science instruments for the mission. Lockheed Martin built the spacecraft and is responsible for mission operations. The Space Sciences Laboratory at the University of California at Berkeley provided four science instruments for MAVEN. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, provides navigation and Deep Space Network support, and Electra telecommunications relay hardware and operations. JPL manages the Mars Exploration Program for NASA.