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Category Archives: MAVEN

Relating to the MAVEN spacecraft launch

MAVEN – MOI

MAVEN entered orbit around Mars at 10:24 p.m.EDT Sunday, Sept 21, 2014.

MAVEN during Mars Obit Insertion - MOI Image courtesy of NASA.com

Artists rendering of MAVEN after Mars Obit Insertion – MOI
Image courtesy of NASA.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After launching on Nov. 18, 2013 and a 10 month trip covering 442 million miles the MAVEN Spacecraft successfully entered its initial orbit. The trajectory calculations were so accurate the third and fourth correction maneuvers were not needed. Cheers went up from the mission support at Lockheed Martin in Littleton, Colorado when confirmation was received from MAVEN.

The MAVEN Project has taken 11 years from concept to reaching orbit. during the next six weeks, MAVEN will be maneuvered into its final orbit path. The hard part is over, but now the science begins.

Sampling the atmosphere at various altitudes around Mars,scientists at the University of Colorado and other facilities, hope to obtain a better understanding as to what happened to the martian atmosphere over time. The primary mission will take one year to complete. It will also provide better understanding of the habitability of mars with future manned missions in the 2030’s.

Congratulations, goes out to the entire MAVEN Project team for getting the bird into orbit!!!

Congrats, Pat. Thanks for the belated birthday present. 🙂

See previous posts on the MAVEN Project here.

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Posted by on September 22, 2014 in MAVEN

 

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MAVEN Update – 9/11/14

Ten days until MAVEN is placed into orbit around Mars.

Artists concept of the MAVEN Spacecraft - Courtesy of Wikipedia

Artists concept of the MAVEN Spacecraft – Courtesy of Wikipedia

On November 18th of 2013, I had the enormous pleasure to witness the launch of this space mission along side members of the project team. Our viewing site was at the base of the Assembly Building at the Kennedy Space Center. It was a bucket list event to say the least.

Since then MAVEN has been hurtling toward Mars at over 27,000 miles an hour. All in-flight tests to date have been successful and the control center is buzzing with anticipation of the September 21st when, at 10:23 PM MST, MAVEN will be placed into orbit around the Red Planet. The process is described in this YouTube video.

I am always amazed by the science and mathematics involved in these projects. If the numbers used to calculate the trajectory of Mars, the Earth, or Maven are off, or the length of burn to enter orbit, a multi-million dollar scientific instrument can become just so much space junk. That’s why the term ‘failure is not an option’ is so closely related to the space program.

I am proud of the team who have spent years preparing for this. And, though I will not be able to sit in the control room as MAVEN enters orbit, rest assured that I will be glued to the NASA channel on my television. You will hear me cheering as the final corrections are made. Join with me in celebrating an achievement of dedicated people seeking knowledge that will help us understand one of the mysteries of space and perhaps understand our own planet.

If you are interested in my previous posts on the MAVEN Project, they can be found here.

 
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Posted by on September 11, 2014 in MAVEN

 

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MAVEN – update

Artists concept of the MAVEN Spacecraft - Courtesy of Wikipedia

Artists concept of the MAVEN Spacecraft – Courtesy of Wikipedia

Seventy-one days until the MAVEN spacecraft is placed into orbit around Mars. All systems are functioning as planned for the September 21st orbit insertion. Three days later, the MOM orbiter from India is scheduled to be placed into Mars orbit. That will bring the number of spacecraft from Earth occupying Mars to seven. It will be a busy September for Earth’s scientists.

To view previous posts on the MAVEN project, click here.

 
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Posted by on July 10, 2014 in MAVEN

 

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Quick MAVEN Update

Artists concept of the MAVEN Spacecraft - Courtesy of Wikipedia

Artists concept of the MAVEN Spacecraft – Courtesy of Wikipedia

 

Just a quick note for all you space geeks out there.

MAVEN is 23,000,000 miles away and it takes light about 2 minutes to get there from here. 23 MM miles in a little over two months! Rock on MAVEN.

 
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Posted by on February 3, 2014 in MAVEN

 

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The U.S. Space Program

Is this the future of the Space Program? Artist's concept drawing. courtesy of NASA

Is this the future of the Space Program?
Artist’s concept drawing. Courtesy of NASA

Fifty-plus years ago, a young man stood up in front of the American people and declared that we would put men on the moon. We did! Four years after the moon landing, the Space Shuttle program was approved.

The two men responsible for these huge steps could not have been more different if I’d created them for a piece of fiction. Former Presidents John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon. Even though President Eisenhower originally approved funding for the Apollo program, history sees Kennedy as the driver behind putting men on the moon. Kennedy and Nixon did have at least one similarity. They both believed in the Space Program. It is sad that the leaders since then have not had the same vision or courage shown by leaders of the fifties, sixties, and seventies. Funding has been cut to the point where, even if funding came through today, it would take nearly a decade for the U.S. to put a manned vehicle back into space. We have chosen to rely on Russia to ensure the safe travel of our brave astronauts to and from the International Space Station. The cost of which jumped 300% the day we announced the retirement of the space shuttles. In addition, 7,000 jobs were lost to the small towns that surround Cape Canaveral when the Shuttle program was cancelled. Thirst for human exploration and knowledge has driven us to this point. What will it take to move us to the next step? Substantial fiscal payback will most likely be needed to push Congress and the President off of top-dead-center and move them to act in support of NASA. Okay, enough politics, I’m trying to keep from entering into a rant.

When I was ten years old a man stepped onto the surface of the moon. To say I was excited would be an understatement. At eighteen, I visited the Kennedy Space Center for the first time and got to look inside rockets for the first time. I was impressed but, I still didn’t understand. Thirty-four years later, I went back. I watched first hand, as a rocket launched into space. I felt the rush of excitement and patriotism. I walked in the steps of the bravest men, in my opinion, who have ever walked the earth. My imagination was electrified by the sights and sounds of exploration. With the help of the Hubble Telescope, I saw images of the possibilities and the probabilities of other “earths’ being out there. Mathematically, it is almost certain!

If only we had a way to get there!

The past few months have renewed my belief in the U.S. Space Program. The men and women who work on these projects are the finest in the world. They are driven by an insatiable need to learn, to explore, to try, and to succeed. The benefits the program has provided humanity are irrefutable. The need for the people of  Earth to find and learn about other planets could very well save us from ourselves.Will we find a way to safely travel into deep space? I have no doubt that it can and will be done.

I hope I get to see it happen in my lifetime.

What about you? If you had the opportunity to go into space, would you?

 
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Posted by on December 2, 2013 in MAVEN, Other Strangeness

 

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MAVEN – Kennedy Space Center Visit

Gemini rocket that sent US Men into orbit around earth.

Gemini rocket that sent US Men into orbit around earth.

MAVEN was on its way to Mars. With that behind us, my brother Pat and I went to the Kennedy Space Center’s visitor center for some R&R. This was my first trip back in over fifteen years. The Kennedy Space Center (KSC) is one of those places that every US citizen should visit at least once in their lifetime. In addition, anyone who has an interest in space should make the pilgrimage to this source of knowledge on space exploration. When you walk through the gate, the first thing you see is the “rocket garden”. This collection of full-sized rockets gives new meaning to the words “The Right Stuff”. The Mercury and Gemini missions which put the first US men into space are quite small compared to the launch vehicles of today. With limited technology compared to today, these men squeezed into capsules the size of a medium-sized dinner table, which were placed on top of ballistic missiles. Were they brave or just plain nuts? A ‘new’ feature of the “Garden”, at least for me, was the swing arm from the Apollo launch pad. This was the real walkway that Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin used to enter the Command Module atop the Saturn V rocket that would take them to the Moon. That short walk along the steel walkway Made the hair stand up on my arms. At the end of the walkway was one of the practice capsules they used to prepare for the mission. Three men in a capsule the size of a large dinning room table. There were no padded seats and the harnesses were simple web straps. Once again, brave or nuts? These guys were mostly test pilots so they had a large amount of adrenaline junkie in them. But still… The Saturn V that sent them to the moon was larger than anything previous built by the U.S. One engine of the Saturn V provided as much thrust as all eight engines of its little brother the Saturn 1B. And, there were five of those engines. Check out the picture.

One Saturn V engine beside a six foot tall man. The smaller Saturn 1B is in the background

One Saturn V engine beside a six foot tall man. The smaller Saturn 1B is in the background

We decided to catch a couple of movies at the IMAX theatres. The first was on the history of the International Space Station (ISS). Watching how it came together and how many nations worked in tandem to make it happen was amazing. Countries that once wanted nothing more than to eradicate each other using missiles, were able to build modules that fit together perfectly and functioned as promised. The principals were the space agencies of the United States, Russia, Europe, Japan, and Canada.  European Space agency partners include: Belgium, Denmark – DNSC, France – CNES, Germany – DLR, Italy – ASI, Netherlands, Norway – NSC, Spain – INTA, Sweden – SNSB, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. The science that is coming out of the ISS is helping the world. I found the medical research especially interesting. The most moving portion of the film for me was a quote from on of the astronauts. While on the screen, we were looking at a view of Earth with the continents clearly visible, The astronauts explained the following: “Astronauts are given a unique gift. We  can see the world as a whole. A world without lines or labels. we are truly one people, sharing this beautiful planet, together.” With this type of cooperation, what are the possibilities?

The second film presented the Hubble Telescope. It took several Shuttle trips to finally get it working properly. But the results are nothing short of overwhelming. The film took us on a trip through space using pictures from Hubble and creating 3D images. As Leonardo DiCaprio explains, “Billions of galaxies, each with billions of stars. Could it be possible that other Earth-like planets exist?” The percentage are certainly there. The problem lies in where are they and how do we get there? We are talking about planets, billions of light years away. That’s why it’s called the universe.

An Exploding galaxy taken by Hubble. Courtesy of NASA

An Exploding galaxy taken by Hubble. Courtesy of NASA

The last exhibit we saw was the newest addition to the KSC visitor center. The space shuttle Atlantis. I’ll let the pictures do the talking.

Not a small plane.

Not a small plane.

Plenty of room for your luggage

Plenty of room for your luggage

The business end of Atlantis

The business end of Atlantis

When this lights up, you would be standing in hell itself, for a fraction of a second before you became ash.

When this lights up, you would be standing in hell itself, for a fraction of a second before you became ash.

Atlantis was so close you could almost touch it. You could easily see the streaks across the heat tiles from the fiction of re-entry. It was hard to control my imagination while standing this close to “Real History”. There were so many OMG moments during our visit that by the time came to leave, the trip back to the motel was very quiet indeed.

My next post will be my last on this topic for a while. However, I will wrap up my experiences on this brief journey and pose some questions about the space program and our future. .

 
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Posted by on November 25, 2013 in MAVEN

 

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MAVEN – The Launch

Artists concept of the MAVEN Spacecraft - Courtesy of Wikipedia

Artists concept of the MAVEN Spacecraft – Courtesy of Wikipedia

Well, I made it back. I left 70 degrees and sunny in Cocoa Beach, Florida to return to 40 degrees and overcast with a sharp wind in Minneapolis, Minnesota. My trip to watch the MAVEN launch turned out to be a ‘bucket list’ event of the grandest scale. I decided to write three separate posts on my experience, the launch itself, my visit to the Kennedy Space Center, and my overall impressions of the trip, including a video of the launch.

MAVEN is on her way to Mars at 17,500 miles an hour. Yes, that is not a typo. And even at that speed, it will take 10 months to reach the Red Planet at approximately 200 million miles away.

The morning of November 18th dawned with a light haze and a forecast for late afternoon thunder showers. The launch window opened at 1:28PM EST so, it was a race with the weather as clouds and rain began to build in the northwest.

The clouds were moving in.

The clouds were moving in.

My brother Pat worked the night shift at the operations console where they monitored MAVEN’s status. This allowed the primary launch team to get some rest and be fresh for the launch. The Ops Manager gifted Pat with a parking pass that allowed five of us to watch the launch from the employees viewing area near the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) (NASA loves acronyms). The VAB is roughly four miles from the Complex 41 launch pad. This is the closest anyone would be when the Atlas V fired its engines. I would later be grateful for that distance between me and the rocket. When we reached the VAB, support tents were set up near the grandstand and guests were beginning to arrive. Through the many loudspeakers around the viewing area, we could hear the launch technicians working through their pre-launch checklists. Status reports came in from the fueling team as the liquid oxygen and kerosene were pumped into the fuel tanks. The crowd grew and lawn chairs were added to the grandstand and folding chairs already provided. Excitement filled the air as the crowd eagerly anticipated the launch.

At T-4 minutes the countdown entered a mandatory 10 minute hold to facilitate last-minute checks. Looking at the clouds continuing to build, I said to no one in particular, “Screw the ten minute hold. get the bird in the air.” Just before the end of the ‘hold’ the launch director called roll on all systems. He called each system name in a prescribed order and was responded to with a firm “GO”. Once all systems gave him the “GO”, he stated,”We are a  go for launch.” The countdown continued.

At T-30 seconds the crowd went quiet. Everyone was on their feet and cameras were ready.

At zero we waited as nothing seemed to be happening. At four miles away there were trees covering the launch pad. The announcer said, “We have lift off”. And suddenly we saw the launch fairing above the trees. Then the bright tail of the atlas engine lit up the tree tops. A second later a crack split the air and was followed by the crush of the engine noise. At four miles it was uncomfortable. Any closer and it would have been painful. The roar pounded on my chest as I tried to keep my camera phone steady and focused on MAVEN. It was surreal to watch as MAVEN started toward the clouds. Slowly at first, it seemed to hang in the air, barely climbing at all. Gradually it accelerated as the bright yellow tail as long as the rocket itself pushed the spacecraft up and away from Earth.

MAVEN rises above the tree line. The sound was Crushing!

MAVEN rises above the tree line. The sound was Crushing!

We watched in awe for a few seconds until MAVEN disappeared into a cloud. Several more seconds passed before it broke out of the cloud and continued to streak upward. My hands were shaking so bad that I had to readjust the camera constantly to keep MAVEN in the viewfinder.

My last view of MAVEN as she heads for Mars

My last view of MAVEN as she heads for Mars

Sixty-four seconds after the zero count, MAVEN disappeared from view. The last visible sign was the glow from the engine blast fading away into the building clouds. Only then did the crowd begin to cheer. I found myself simply staring up at where MAVEN had disappeared with tears rolling down my face. I slid my phone into my pocket and looked around to see that I was not the only one overwhelmed by the experience.

I never thought this type of event would be so emotional. There are no words to describe the feelings I felt. I could not tell if it was because Pat was involved with the project, or if it was my patriotism, or possibly just the release of raw emotion drawn from me by the crush of MAVEN’s engine. Maybe it was a combination of all of them.

A man standing behind me had retired from NASA. He had witnessed the Gemini mission launches which put the first US men into orbit, and he had sat in the launch center during Apollo and Shuttle launches. This man who had witnessed almost the entire history of the space program had tears in his eyes.

I spoke to my brother after he put his video camera away and he said it was bittersweet to see something he had spent five years helping to create disappear into the clouds. He would never see MAVEN again.

Approximately 90 minutes after lift off, somewhere over the eastern coast of Australia, The second stage (Centaur) of the Atlas rocket fired and sent MAVEN out of Earth’s atmosphere and on its way to Mars. The status report came in that all systems were functioning nominally (that’s normal for us normal folks). It was party time for the project and launch teams. All I will say about partying with rocket scientists is this. It’s a lot like partying with a bunch of sci-fi/fantasy writers. However, there are a lot fewer piercings and less multicolored hairdos with the rocket scientists.

The good news for Pat is that he is transferring to the operations team and will be writing commands for MAVEN when she reaches Mars next September. With luck, he’ll be able to work with MAVEN until the mission ends in 2015. I hope he can.

Coming up next: My visit to the visitor’s center at the Kennedy Space Center. you won’t want to miss this!

 
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Posted by on November 22, 2013 in MAVEN

 

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