WASHINGTON, September 22 (RIA Novosti) - MAVEN spacecraft has entered Mars' upper atmosphere, the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) reported.
"This was a very big day for MAVEN," David Mitchell, MAVEN project manager from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland was quoted as saying in a press release published by NASA Sunday.
MAVEN was launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida November 18, 2013. Its journey took 10 months, during which the spacecraft covered a distance of 711 million kilometers (442 million miles).
"We're very excited to join the constellation of spacecraft in orbit at Mars and on the surface of the Red Planet. The commissioning phase will keep the operations team busy for the next six weeks, and then we'll begin, at last, the science phase of the mission. Congratulations to the team for a job well done today," Mitchell said in the statement.
According to NASA, MAVEN's mission is to take measurements of the composition, structure and escape of gases in Mars' upper atmosphere and its interaction with the sun and solar wind. The measurements will provide information down to where the upper and lower atmospheres meet, giving scientists a full profile of its upper tier.
"As the first orbiter dedicated to studying Mars' upper atmosphere, MAVEN will greatly improve our understanding of the history of the Martian atmosphere, how the climate has changed over time, and how that has influenced the evolution of the surface and the potential habitability of the planet," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said.
Besides MAVEN, there are two other US spacecrafts orbiting Mars, 2001 Mars Odyssey and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, and the European Mars Express.