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MAVEN Status Update: Sept. 15, 2014

September 15, 2014

As of September 15th, the MAVEN spacecraft is 216 million kilometers (134 million miles) from Earth and 2 million kilometers (1.2 million miles) from Mars.  From that distance, Mars as seen by MAVEN is the same size as a baseball as seen from 73 feet.  Its velocity is 22.43 kilometers per second (50,174 miles per hour) as it moves around the Sun.

As of September 15th, the MAVEN spacecraft is 216 million kilometers (134 million miles) from Earth and 2 million kilometers (1.2 million miles) from Mars. From that distance, Mars as seen by MAVEN is the same size as a baseball as seen from 73 feet. Its velocity is 22.43 kilometers per second (50,174 miles per hour) as it moves around the Sun.


David F. Mitchell, MAVEN Project Manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

Everything continues to go well with MAVEN as it is readied for arrival at Mars on Sunday, September 21st. All spacecraft systems are operating nominally. We had scheduled a final Trajectory Correction Maneuver (TCM-4) for September 12th. However, the maneuver was cancelled because the flight path did not warrant a correction. MAVEN is right on track.

In the next few days the Mars Orbit Insertion (MOI) sequence will commence on the spacecraft. Most commands will be performed autonomously (without the need for commanding from Earth). However, there are two ground command opportunities still available to alter the spacecraft’s flight path, if necessary, in order to raise altitude for its first pass at Mars. These altitude raise decisions will be made by the Project at approximately 24 hours and 6 hours prior to MOI, in close coordination with the Navigation team and the Navigation Advisory Group. Right now we don’t expect to need an additional maneuver because of how well the spacecraft is flying.

On Sunday evening, MAVEN will slew (turn) to point the main engines in the direction of travel and fire for about 33 minutes in order to slow down the spacecraft enough to “capture” into Mars orbit. Although we have direct line of sight of MAVEN during the entire burn sequence, the observed data back on Earth will actually be viewed 12 minutes after the events occur because of the distance between Earth and Mars. For more details, check out this MAVEN MOI video, “Targeting Mars:”

As we approach the last few days before arriving at Mars, the following are public affairs events that you may be interested in tuning in for:

  • Pre-MOI Press Conference at NASA Headquarters: September 17th at 1:00 p.m. EDT.
  • Live Television Coverage of the MOI Event: September 21st from 9:30 p.m. to 10:45 p.m. EDT.
  • Post-MOI Press Conference at Lockheed Martin-Denver: September 21st, approximately 2 hours after MOI.

All of these events can be watched through NASA TV on your cable/satellite system or online at www.nasa.gov/ntv.

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