NASA narrowly avoided a destructive event in space recently, an incident that could have cost the agency big time.
NASA almost had a disaster on its hands recently in space, but fortunately, everyone can breathe a sigh of relief. NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft is a vital instrument orbiting Mars, but it had to make a sudden maneuver to avoid smashing into Mars’ moon Phobos recently, NASA said in a statement.
Navigators predicted the spacecraft would collide with the Martian moon at some point, possibly very soon, forcing NASA engineers to scramble. The MAVEN orbiter is currently in its third year studying the atmosphere of the Red Planet, and it only needed to do a minor rocket burn to get out of a collision course with the small moon. The spacecraft had been projected to crash into Phobos a week later on its current route.
Instead, MAVEN will miss Phobos by about two and a half minutes. Phobos is situated about 3,700 miles from Mars, higher than the other orbiters, Mars Odyssey and Reconnaissance, so they are not threatened by the moon. But MAVEN is far enough out that navigators must keep an eye on Phobos.
“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,” NASA said in a statement. “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.”