In order to act as a telecommunications relay for Mars landers and rovers, an American spacecraft moved closer to Mars as the two-month orbit tightening ended on Friday.
According to NASA, Mars Atmosphere, a spacecraft that is four years old and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) aerobrake in order to slow down, this being a process taking advantage of the Martian upper atmosphere in order for a small amount of drag to be placed on the spacecraft.
“It’s like applying the brakes on a car, but instead of brake pads, we used Mars’ atmosphere,” said the navigation team lead at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Stuart Demcak.
The lowest altitude of the orbit that the spacecraft had lowered to about 132 km above the Martian surface from151 km. The atmosphere at this altitude is dense enough that the small amount of drag is provided on the spacecraft to slow it down.
In addition to that, the highest point in orbit dropped to about 4,570 km from about 6,050 km, improving the availability of MAVEN to support relay communications with the rovers and landers of NASA that are located on the surface of Mars. The MAVEN orbiter was this way helped to circle Red Planet as a more frequent pace and thus communicate with the Mars rovers more frequently.
A Mars 2020 rover from NASA will be launched next year thanks to the data-relay satellite that will be working with it.
MAVEN, even though it will not be conducting relay communications, will have the structure and of the upper atmosphere of Mars studied.
In November of 2013, the MAVEN was launched and its mission in space that lasted two years has been completed, but according to NASA, it can last through 2030 because of the quantity of fuel it has left.
Katie Tachuck is a reporter for News Lair. After graduating from UCLA, Katie got an internship at a local radio station and worked as a investigative journalist and producer. Katie has also worked as a columnist for the The Santa Fe New Mexican. Katie covers economy and community events for News Lair.