NASA’s Maven spacecraft had to perform a previously unscheduled maneuver this week to avoid a collision next week with Mars’ moon Phobos.
The Maven spacecraft has been orbiting Mars for just over two years, studying the planet’s upper atmosphere, ionosphere and interactions with the sun and solar wind. It had to boost its speed so it could steer clear of Mars’ moon called Phobos. This is the first collision avoidance maneuver that the spacecraft has performed at Mars, NASA said.
“Kudos to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory 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,” Bruce Jakosky, MAVEN principal investigator and researcher at the University of Colorado in Boulder, said.
The researchers noticed that Phobos and MAVEN had a chance of colliding on March 6. After the maneuvers the two will miss each other by about 2.5 minutes (before, their orbits were crossing the same point within just 7 seconds of each other).
Maven was launched aboard an Atlas V launch vehicle on November 18, 2013. On September 22, 2014, Maven reached Mars and was inserted into an areocentric elliptic orbit 6,200 km (3,900 mi) by 150 km (93 mi) above the planet’s surface.