NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft began orbiting Mars on Sunday, on a mission to study how the Red Planet’s climate changed over time from warm and wet to cold and dry.
“Based on observed navigation data, congratulations. MAVEN is now in orbit,” said Dave Folta of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center just before 10:30 pm (0230 GMT).
The unmanned orbiter has traveled more than 10 months and 442 million miles (711 million kilometers) to reach Mars for a first-of-its kind look at the planet’s upper atmosphere.
The data from the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft aims to help scientists understand what happened to the water on Mars and the carbon dioxide in its atmosphere several billion years ago.
How Mars lost its atmosphere is one of science’s biggest mysteries. The answers could shed light on the planet’s potential to support life — even if that was just microbial life — long ago.
MAVEN’s findings are also expected to help add to knowledge of how humans could survive on a future visit to the Red Planet, perhaps as early as 2030.
“Mars is a cool place, but there is not much atmosphere,” said John Clarke of the MAVEN science team.
“It is very cold, it is well below zero. The atmosphere is about half a percent of what we are breathing,” he added.
“But we know that Mars could change and it was probably different in the past. There is a lot of evidence of flowing water on the surface from Mars’s ancient history.”
– Mission begins –
Next, MAVEN will enter a six-week phase for tests.
It will then begin a one-year mission of studying the gases in Mars’s upper atmosphere and how it interacts with the sun and solar wind.
Much of MAVEN’s year-long mission will be spent circling the planet 3,730 miles above the surface.
However, it will execute five deep dips to a distance of just 78 miles above the Martian landscape to get readings of the atmosphere at various levels.
NASA is the world’s most successful space agency at sending rovers and probes to Mars, and past missions have included the Viking 1 and 2 in 1975 and the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter in 2005.
The US space agency’s latest robotic vehicle, Curiosity, is exploring Gale Crater and Mount Sharp, looking for interesting rocks and returning data on whether the Martian environment shows evidence of a past ability to support life.
Later this week, an Indian spacecraft, the Mars Orbiter Mission, will be on course to reach Mars.
The unmanned MOM probe is set to enter Mars’s orbit in the next few days after 10 months in space, marking India’s first mission to the planet to search for evidence of life.
“We are not the only show that is happening on Mars this week,” said Gary Napier, a spokesman for Lockheed Martin, during a NASA television broadcast of the orbital insertion.
“Everyone at NASA and its partners wishes that team all the best.”
US manufacturing sinks into recession amid Trump’s trade wars
US manufacturing sunk into recession in June after two consecutive quarters of declines amid President Donald Trump's bitter trade wars, a slowdown in China and other trading partners.
The decline comes as the United States enters its 11th year of economic recovery and occurs despite Trump's constant pledges to restore America to manufacturing greatness -- even though services now drive three quarters of the US economy.
Despite jumping in June, manufacturing fell by a 2.2 percent annual rate in the April-June period, and total industrial production lost 1.2 percent, in both cases the second consecutive quarterly decline, the Federal Reserve said Tuesday.
Meghan McCain baffles co-hosts by instantly contradicting herself on Fox News and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
Meghan McCain described "The Squad" of first-year Democratic lawmakers as the "face" of the party -- and then complained when co-host Sunny Hostin pointed out that's how Republicans and Fox News were trying to portray them.
Hostin called President Donald Trump a racist for telling the lawmakers -- Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib -- to go back to their home countries, and co-host Joy Behar said he was "stupid" for launching those ugly attacks.
"I don't think he's stupid," McCain countered, "but I don't think he's politically astute at all because the politics of this -- on Friday night the progressives and Nancy Pelosi was full 'Gangs of New York'-style fighting with one another on Twitter. It was fascinating to watch."
Trump has ‘joined Andrew Johnson as the most racist president in American history’: historian
When President Donald Trump, over the weekend, told four congresswomen of color to go back to the countries they originally came from, it was obviously a rally-the-base strategy designed to appeal to the so-called “patriotism” of his far-right supporters. But, according to presidential historian Jon Meacham, Trump’s bigoted comments were the polar opposite of patriotic. This week’s true American patriots, according to Meacham, are the four congresswomen Trump attacked on Twitter: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York City, Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Rep. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan — and Trump is showing himself to be the most racist U.S. president since Democrat Andrew Johnson in the 1860s.