NASA On Mars Spacecraft Entering Orbit: 'We Nailed It'

NASA MavenLockheed Martin/NASAMembers of the mission team at the Lockheed Martin Mission Support Area in Littleton, Colorado, celebrate after successfully inserting NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft into orbit around Mars at 10:24 p.m. EDT Sunday, Sept. 21.

NASA’s next Mars spacecraft, MAVEN, entered orbit Sunday night, 10 months after launching from Cape Canaveral in Florida.

“You get one shot with orbital insertion, and MAVEN nailed it tonight,” Maven project manager David Mitchell said, according to a tweet by NBC News’ Alan Boyle.

MAVEN, which stands for Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution, is the first Mars explorer to focus exclusively on Mars’ upper atmosphere to help scientists figure out how the planet lost its atmosphere and surface water over time.

MAVEN at MarsNASAMAVEN at Mars.

The spacecraft will spend the next six weeks testing out its instruments before moving into the science phase of the mission during which it will take “measurements of the composition, structure and escape of gases in Mars’ upper atmosphere,” NASA said in a statement.

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