SHAFAQNA- The Maven probe travelled 442 million miles at 12,800 mph to reach its destination during an epic 10-month journey.
A NASA spacecraft has entered Mars orbit as it begins to hunt for the Red Planet’s lost water.
The Maven probe travelled 442 million miles at 12,800 mph to reach its destination during an epic 10-month journey.
The craft fired its six rocket thrusters, trimming its speed to 10,000 mph, leaving it in the clutches of Mars’ gravity as it flew over the planet’s north pole.
It then slipped into a looping 236-mile by 27,713-mile high orbit.
“I don’t have any fingernails anymore, but we made it,” Colleen Hartman, NASA deputy director of science at Goddard Space Spaceflight Center in Maryland, US, said during a NASA Television broadcast of MAVEN’s arrival.
Flight control teams burst into cheers and applause as radio signals from MAVEN confirmed it was in Mars orbit at 10:25 pm 2.25am.
Over the next several weeks, Maven will lower its altitude until it reaches its 93-mile by 3,900-mile operational orbit.
Maven will study how the solar wind strips away atoms and molecules in the planet’s upper atmosphere, a process that scientists believe has been underway for eons.
“By learning the processes that are going on today we hope to extrapolate back and learn about the history of Mars,” Maven scientist John Clarke, of Boston University, said in an interview on NASA Television.
Scientists strongly suspect that Mars was not always the cold and dry desert it is today. The planet’s surface is riddled with what appear to be dry riverbeds and minerals that form in the presence of water.
But for water to pool on the planet’s surface, its atmosphere would have had to be much denser and thicker than it is today. Mars’ atmosphere is now about 100 times thinner than Earth’s.