NASA spacecraft to reach Mars this weekend

US space agency NASA said Wednesday its Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft will enter orbit around the Red Planet this weekend.

NASA spacecraft to reach Mars this weekend

Washington: US space agency NASA said Wednesday its Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft will enter orbit around the Red Planet this weekend.

The spacecraft has completed a 10-month space journey spanning 442 million miles (711 million km), Xinhua reported.

"The team, the flight system, and all ground assets are ready for Mars orbit insertion," David Mitchell, MAVEN project manager at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, said in a statement.

The maneuver will begin with the brief firing of six small thruster engines to steady the spacecraft.

Then the engines will ignite and burn for 33 minutes to slow the craft, allowing it to be pulled into an elliptical orbit within a period of 35 hours at approximately 9.50 p.m. Sunday (01:50 GMT Monday).

Following orbit insertion, MAVEN will begin a six-week commissioning phase that includes maneuvering the spacecraft into its final orbit and testing its instruments and science-mapping commands, NASA said.

Thereafter, MAVEN will begin its one-Earth-year primary mission to take measurements of the composition, structure and escape of gases in Mars' upper atmosphere and its interaction with the sun and solar wind, it said.

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