Monday, Aug 19 2019 | Time 15:10 Hrs(IST)
  • Afghan President vows to destroy IS hideouts in country after deadly Kabul wedding attack
  • Couple dead following mine cave-in at Koderma
  • Ashes kept Test cricket alive: Sourav Ganguly
  • ED issues summon to Raj Thackeray in Kohinoor Mill case
  • Airport Expansion: Flights Ops likely to be suspended for 2 wks at Jammu Airport from Oct 1
  • Guv, CM condole death of Dr Jagannath Mishra, govt announces three-day state mourning
  • Govt at people's doorstep : Palaniswami launches grievance redressal scheme
  • Cop murders wife, ends life
  • Malaysian state bans Zakir Naik's religious speeches
  • Govt fully committed to eradicating manual scavenging: Gehlot
  • Yogi shifts SSP of Prayagraj: Summons DGP over the L&O
  • Yediyurappa hits back at former dKarnataka CM Kumaraswamy over his allegation of corruption in transfers of officials
  • Four shot dead in two separate incidents in UP
  • Truckers strike affected import and exports of goods in West Bengal and foreign trade
  • Paswan, Ram Kripal Yadav condole demise of Jagannath Mishra

NASA turns a Mars sniffer into data relay satellite for rovers

Washington, Feb 11 (UNI) NASA announced on Monday that its atmosphere sniffer orbiting Mars would get closer to the red planet Monday to become a data-relay satellite for the US space agency's Mars 2020 rover to be launched next year.

The operation will reduce the highest point of the spacecraft's elliptical orbit from 6,200 to 4,500 kilometers above the surface, according to NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

Over the next few months, NASA engineers will take advantage of the drag of the Mars' upper atmosphere to slow the spacecraft down gradually, orbit by orbit.

The orbit of the four-year-old spacecraft called Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) orbit will not be drastically shorter than its present orbit, but even this small change will significantly improve its communications capabilities.

"It's like using your cell phone," said Bruce Jakosky, MAVEN principal investigator from the University of Colorado, Boulder. "The closer you are to a cell tower, the stronger your signal."

Also, coming in about 1,500 kilometers closer will allow the orbiter to circle Mars more frequently: 6.8 orbits per Earth day compared with 5.3 previously, thus communicating with the Mars rovers more frequently.

At unoccupied time, MAVEN will continue to study the structure and composition of the upper atmosphere of Mars.

"The MAVEN spacecraft has done a phenomenal job teaching us how Mars lost its atmosphere and providing other important scientific insights on the evolution of the Martian climate," said Jim Watzin, director of NASA's Mars Exploration Program.

The MAVEN has completed its two-year mission in space, but its fuel allows it to last through 2030, according to NASA.

The orbiter carries an ultra high-frequency radio that allows it to relay data between Earth and rovers or landers on Mars, including the Curiosity rover.

NASA engineers will begin carefully lowering the lowest part of the spacecraft's orbit into the Martian upper atmosphere over the next few days by firing its thrusters.

The spacecraft will circle Mars at this lower altitude about 360 times over the next 2.5 months, slowing down slightly with each pass through the atmosphere, according to NASA.
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