NASA’s MAVEN Mars mission exits safe mode

NASA's MAVEN (short for Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN) mission, a spacecraft designed to study the Martian atmosphere, encountered problems with its Inertial Measurement Units (IMUs) and entered safe mode on February 16.

The spacecraft recovered from the safe mode event on February 17 and began operating in all stellar mode, which does not rely on IMU to navigate by the stars. In its latest update, NASA said the spacecraft would resume its relay activities and nominal science operations on February 23. We can expect it to have resumed its duties by now.

IMUs determine the spacecraft's attitude in space by measuring its rotation rate. The IMU had been powered up in preparation for a little maneuver targeted to reduce eclipse durations in 2027. NASA said the maneuver would be waived as the team evaluates the path forward.

MAVEN was launched in November 2013 and arrived at Mars on September 21, 2014. The mission's key goal is to study the Red Planet's upper atmosphere, ionosphere, and interactions with the Sun and solar wind to explore the loss of the Martian atmosphere to space.

The spacecraft has a suite of scientific instruments to explore the planet up close. The data collected by the mission has allowed scientists to understand better how the Martian atmosphere interacts with the solar wind and how the loss of atmosphere to space has affected the planet's climate over time.

Overall, NASA's MAVEN mission has made fundamental contributions to scientists' understanding of the history of Mars. Last year, the spacecraft also approved its fifth extended mission. It plans to study the interaction between the Martian atmosphere and magnetic field during the upcoming solar maximum – expected in 2025.

The mission is managed by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

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