MAVEN Spacecraft Accelerates To Avoid Dangerous Collision With Mars' Moon, Phobos
NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) has been ordered to increase its velocity by less than a mile an hour to avoid dangerous collision with Mars' moon, Phobos, on March 6. The spacecraft has been orbiting Mars for two years.
The researchers from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, monitor the spacecraft's orbit in relation to Mars' two moons to avoid the collision. MAVEN Principal Investigator Bruce Jakosky said kudos to the JPL 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.
— Robert Peason (@Robert_Peason) March 3, 2017
So, last Tuesday, the NASA engineers ordered MAVEN to do an engine burn and accelerated. NASA estimates that next week MAVEN will miss Mars' moon, Phobos, by just about two and a half minutes. Phobos is about 15 miles wide and MAVEN is about the size of a small bus, according to The Verge.
This action could make MAVEN safe and pursue its orbiting around Mars. On the other hand, Phobos is approaching Mars closer and probably in the next 20 to 40 million years, Mars could break apart Phobos. It is then expected that the debris of Phobos could shape a ring around Mars that will last for 4 million years.
MAVEN is a space probe that is created by NASA to study the atmosphere of Mars while orbiting the planet. It aims to know the planet's atmosphere and water. It was launched on Nov. 18, 2013, aboard an Atlas V launch vehicle and reached Mars on Sep. 22, 2014. One of its discoveries is the deterioration of Mars' atmosphere increases during solar storms, which it found on Nov. 5, 2015.