Scientists at NASA are breathing a sigh of relief after one of their spacecraft almost had a devastating collision near the Red Planet.
Scientists at NASA were able to avoid a major incident near Mars. NASA engineers were able to get the MAVEN spacecraft to avoid an imminent collision with Mars’ moon Phobos by engaging its rocket engines, less than a week before scientists calculated a collision would have taken place if NASA took no action.
The MAVEN spacecraft is currently orbiting Mars and is tasked with studying the atmosphere of the Red Planet. The orbiters Odyssey and Reconnaissance are also circling the planet, but they are at a much lower orbit and at no danger of colliding with Mars’ irregularly shaped moon. But since MAVEN is circling at about the same distance from Mars, which is 3,700 miles out, scientists must keep an eye on it.
In this case, engineers had to quickly spot the danger and fire the spacecraft’s engines so that it would miss Phobos by two and a half minutes.
NASA said in a statement: “The Mars Atmosphere and VolatileEvolutioN (MAVEN)spacecraft has been orbiting Mars for just over two years, studying the Red Planet’s upper atmosphere, ionosphere and interactions with the sun and solar wind. On Tuesday the spacecraft carried out a rocket motor burn that boosted its velocity by 0.4 meters per second (less than 1 mile per hour). Although a small correction, it was enough that — projected to one week later when the collision would otherwise have occurred — MAVEN would miss the lumpy, crater-filled moon by about 2.5 minutes.”