NASA performed a rare evasive maneuver to stop a satellite from smashing into a Martian moon – Business Insider


phobos moon mars nasa mro
Phobos,
a moon of Mars.


NASA/JPL-Caltech/University
of Arizona



A NASA science satellite orbiting Mars was forced to make a rare
evasive maneuver to avoid a collision next week with one of the
planet’s two small moons, the US space agency said on Thursday.

Flight controllers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in
Pasadena, California, commanded the MAVEN spacecraft, which is
studying Mars’ vanishing atmosphere, to fire up its engine on
Tuesday to boost its speed by about 1.3 feet per second (0.4
meters per second).

The acceleration was necessary to slightly shift MAVEN’s orbit
and steer the satellite clear of the Martian moon Phobos,
NASA said in a statement.

“With one week’s advance notice, it looked like MAVEN and Phobos
had a good chance of hitting each other,” NASA said.


mars spacecraft satellite maven nasa
An
illustration of the MAVEN spacecraft around
Mars.


Lockheed
Martin



Without the tweak, MAVEN and the small, lumpy moon would have
reached the same point in space within seven seconds of one
another next Monday, March 6.

In its new orbit, MAVEN will miss Phobos by about 2-1/2 minutes,
NASA said.

MAVEN is in an egg-shaped orbit that regularly crosses the paths
of other science satellites and of Phobos, which circles just
6,000 miles (9,656 kilometers) above the Martian surface, closer
than any other known moon to a planet in the solar system.

At that distance, Phobos whips around Mars three times a day.


maven mars phobos moon orbits nasa
The
orbits of MAVEN and Phobos around Mars.


CU/LASP
and NASA



Flight controllers regularly monitor MAVEN’s path for potential
collisions.

Tuesday’s evasive action was the first time MAVEN had to dodge
the potato-shaped Phobos, which measures about 10 by 14 miles by
11 miles (16 by 22.5 by 18 kilometers).

MAVEN, short for Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution, reached
the red planet in September 2014.

NASA performed a rare evasive maneuver to stop a satellite from smashing into a Martian moon – Business Insider

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