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The spacecraft orbiting Mars has a problem

A problem with the navigation system experienced by NASA’s MAVEN orbiter earlier this year prevented the spacecraft from studying the Martian atmosphere.

The MAVEN spacecraft in Mars orbit.  Photo: NASA

The MAVEN spacecraft in Mars orbit. Image: NASA

The MAVEN spacecraft, which has been orbiting Mars since 2014, entered safe mode on February 22 when key inertial instruments began exhibiting “abnormal behavior,” according to a May 18 announcement by NASA. NASA. In safe mode, the ship halted all scientific activity and waited for flight controllers to guide recovery.

For weeks afterward, NASA attempted to revive MAVEN from safe mode, but with limited capacity. The craft is in a stable orbit with its main antenna pointed towards Earth to maintain high-speed communication with the flight control team.

However, in this configuration, MAVEN cannot conduct communications with other Mars spacecraft and can only make very limited scientific observations. The team in charge of the mission began restoring the scientific instrument on April 20. Previously, the MAVEN spacecraft acted as a communication signal for NASA’s Curiosity and Perseverance rover, helping to broadcast the latest images and research from the Martian surface to Earth.

MAVEN’s inertial measurement system (IMU) is based on a gyroscope laser ring that detects the inertial motion of the spacecraft, and 4 jet flywheels arranged in a 4-sided pyramid and rotates independently. keep the aircraft in the right direction. MAVEN is also equipped with two star-tracking cameras that can take pictures of the stars and include an algorithm that helps the spacecraft determine its direction in space.

According to NASA, the MAVEN spacecraft operated in safe mode until April 19. Then, the flight control specialist switched the ship to an “all-stellar” mode. All of MAVEN’s scientific instruments are now on, but not all can collect data while the main antenna is pointed at the Earth. The team in charge is working to conclude tests for the “all stellar” mode, which will allow the vessel to maneuver in other directions before science and signal transmission are restored.

NASA launched the MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN) spacecraft in November 2013 at a cost of $671 million and rode to Mars in October 2014. The mission of the ship is to study how Mars lost its surface water and became the arid world it is today. Last month, NASA extended the MAVEN mission for another three years to allow the spacecraft to continue its scientific research.

An Khang (Follow Space)

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