Every so often uneventful things happen in space, and NASA’s own Mars satellite MAVEN was no exception.
The space agency said in a statement on Thursday March 2, that it had to take countermeasures to avoid their science satellite from colliding with Mars’ moon Phobos. The evasive maneuver had to be done asap as it was estimated that an impending collision might happen by next week hadn’t it been detected, reports Yahoo!
The MAVEN spacecraft, NASA’s eye on Mars, was controlled by the space agency’s flight team until it was directed to rev up its engine at 0.4 meters/second on Tuesday Feb. 28. The probe currently studies the red planet’s atmosphere, which is at a diminishing state.
“Kudos to the JPL navigation and tracking teams for watching out for possible collisions every day of the year, and to the MAVEN spacecraft team for carrying out the maneuver flawlessly,” said MAVEN Principal Investigator Bruce Jakosky of the University of Colorado in Boulder.
A close encounter with Phobos
NASA further noted on a statement that the said boost had to be done, allowing the MAVEN to shift from its orbit, moving away from Phobos. Both space entities would have been within seconds of each other if action wasn’t taken. With the correction, MAVEN would miss the small moon by 2.5 minutes.
Mars’ Phobos may be just a small moon (about 13.6 miles or 22 kilometres in diameter), but it sure doesn’t move slow, according to Extreme Tech.
MAVEN has an elliptical orbit that doesn’t just cross paths with Phobos, but other satellites as well, so there is a possibility of collisions if they arrive at that intersection at the same time. These scenarios are monitored very carefully by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Mars as a sustainable planet
As for the MAVEN spacecraft settling in to take a closer look and study the red planet’s atmosphere, the space probe has been instrumental in delivering updates on the planet’s evolution. It has been speculated that Mars may have had the habitable conditions to support life.
Now that both the MAVEN and Phobos aren’t crashing anytime soon, the former is still slated to complete its observations of the red planet until 2018. Afterwards, the MAVEN would be utilized for communications missions in the future. As for Mars and its moons, NASA isn’t just stopping there.