NASA dodged a moon-sized bullet this past week. The MAVEN spacecraft required a burn on February 28, 2017, to avoid impact with Mars’ moon, Phobos.
NASA decided to apply to burn to force maneuvers a week ahead of the potential collision on March 6. The acceleration pushed the velocity of MAVEN by 0.4 meters per second, which was enough to dodge past the moon.
Bruce Jakosky, MAVEN principal investigator, offered this in a statement about the course correction:
“Kudos to the [Jet Propulsion Laboratory] navigation and tracking teams for watching out for possible collisions every day of the year, and to the MAVEN spacecraft team for carrying out the maneuver flawlessly…”
Save that space money!
MAVEN’s been orbiting Mars since 2014, and it’s part of NASA’s Mars Scout Program. That program is done, but it cost roughly $670 million in total. Losing MAVEN would have been a large chunk of change.
There’s no telling how soon NASA would have been able to get another spacecraft inserted into Mars’ orbit, so this save was crucial.