NASA’s MAVEN Spacecraft Successfully Completes Orbit-Insertion Maneuver

Chuck Bednar for – Your Universe Online
The NASA spacecraft that will explore the climate history of Mars by studying its upper atmosphere, the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN), successfully entered orbit around the planet Sunday night, the US space agency has confirmed.
At 10:26 pm EDT, after the vehicle turned to point the main engines in the right direction and conducted a planned slow-down burn that lasted a little over half an hour, NASA tweeted via the official MAVEN Mission Twitter account that it had received “initial confirmation” the spacecraft had indeed entered completed its orbital insertion maneuver.
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“This is such an incredible night,” John Grunsfeld, NASA’s chief for science missions, told AP Aerospace Writer Marcia Dunn shortly after the entry maneuver was complete. Deputy director for science at Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) Colleen Hartman added, “I don’t have any fingernails any more, but we’ve made it. It’s incredible.”
MAVEN was reportedly traveling at speeds in excess of 10,000 mph when it conducted its engine burn, firing its engines in order to reduce its speed enough so that it could enter orbit. The communications lag resulting from the 138 million miles separating Earth and Mars caused a 12 minute delay in confirmation, Dunn added.
The successful completion of the orbital insertion maneuver marks the end of a journey that took MAVEN approximately 10 months and covered 442 million miles (711 million kilometers), according to the US space agency. It also marks the end of 11 years of concept and development for the project, which will soon enter its science phase.

Image Above: Members of the mission team at the Lockheed Martin Mission Support Area in Littleton, Colorado, celebrate after successfully inserting NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft into orbit around Mars at 10:24 p.m. EDT Sunday, Sept. 21. Credit: Lockheed Martin
MAVEN is now set to begin a six-week commissioning phase, which will include maneuvering the spacecraft into its final orbit and testing both instruments and science-mapping commands, according to NASA. Afterwards, its one-Earth-year primary mission will begin, and the spacecraft will begin taking measurements of the composition and structure of the planet’s atmospheric gases and study how it interacts with the sun and solar wind.
The spacecraft will be investigating how Mars’ climate has changed over time due to the loss of atmospheric gases, and its instruments will be able to detect trace amounts of chemicals in the air high above the planet’s surface. Those chemicals will allow scientists to test theories that the sun’s energy caused nitrogen, carbon dioxide and water from the atmosphere to eventually erode, turning the planet into the dry, desolate land mass it is today.
“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,” explained Bruce Jakosky, MAVEN principal investigator from the University of Colorado, Boulder’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP). “These are important questions for understanding the history of Mars, its climate, and its potential to support at least microbial life.”
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MAVEN originally launched on November 18, 2013 from Cape Canaveral, Florida, carrying with it a trio of instrument packages that will be responsible for providing the measurements necessary to better understand the evolution of the planet’s atmosphere. Those three instrument packages include the Particles and Fields Package, the Remote Sensing Package and the Neutral Gas and Ion Mass Spectrometer (NGIMS).
The Particles and Fields Package contains a total of six instruments – the Solar Wind Electron Analyzer (SWEA), the Solar Wind Ion Analyzer (SWIA), the Suprathermal and Thermal Ion Composition (STATIC), the Solar Energetic Particle (SEP), the Langmuir Probe and Waves (LPW), the Extreme Ultraviolet Monitor (EUV) and the Magnetometer (MAG) – and will measure the planet’s solar wind and ionosphere.
The Remote Sensing Package, which includes the Imaging Ultraviolet Spectrograph (IUVS), will be used to determine the global characteristics of the upper atmosphere and ionosphere via remote sensing, while the Neutral Gas and Ion Mass Spectrometer (NGIMS) will measure the composition and isotopes of neutral ions, according to LASP’s MAVEN mission website.
To learn more about the MAVEN mission, visit: and
FOR THE KINDLE – The History of Space Exploration: redOrbit Press