NASA turns Mars sniffer into data-relay satellite for rovers

By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 2/12/2019 12:22:37 PM IST

NASA’s atmosphere-sniffing Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) mission has embarked on a new campaign to tighten its orbit around the red planet to become a data-relay satellite for the US space agency’s Mars 2020 rover.
The operation will reduce the highest point of the spacecraft’s elliptical orbit from 6,200 kilometres to 4,500 kilometres above the surface, according to NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.
NASA engineers will begin lowering the lowest part of the spacecraft’s orbit into the Martian upper atmosphere over the next few days by firing its thrusters.
Taking the advantage of drag of the Mars’ upper atmosphere, NASA engineers over the next few months, will slow the spacecraft gradually, orbit by orbit, Xinhua news agency reported on Monday.
The orbit of the four-year-old spacecraft MAVEN will not be drastically shorter than its present orbit, but even this small change will significantly improve its communication capabilities.

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