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NASA spacecraft comes closer to Mars



An American spacecraft moved closer to Mars to act as a telecommunications relay for Mars landers and rovers after a two-month orbit tightening ended Friday.

The four-year-old spacecraft called Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) slowed down gradually by aerobraking, taking advantage of the Martian upper atmosphere at a small amount of spacecraft, according to NASA.

" Mars' atmosphere, "said Stuart Demcak, the navigation team lead at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

The spacecraft lowest altitude of the orbit lowered from 1

51 km to about 132 km above the Martian surface. At this altitude, the atmosphere is enough to provide the amount of space on the spacecraft to slow it down.

Also, the highest point in orbit dropped from about 6.050 km to about 4.570 km, improving MAVEN's availability to support relay communications with NASA's landers and rovers on the surface of Mars. It allows the MAVEN orbiter to circle Red Planet more frequently and thus communicate with the Mars rovers more frequently.

Aerobraking plan for MAVEN./Photo from NASA website

Aerobraking plan for MAVEN./Photo from NASA website

The data relay satellite will be working with NASA's March 2020 rover to be launched next year.

While not conducting relay communications, MAVEN will continue to study the structure and composition of the upper atmosphere of Mars.

The MAVEN, Launched in November or 2013, it has completed its mission in space, but its fuel allows it to last through 2030, according to NASA.

(Cover photo: the four-year-old spacecraft – Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) / Photo from NASA website 19


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