- What is the minimum information at the maximum cost?
- These are launches of space stations to Mars.
- These are launches of space stations to Mars.
18 November 2013 was launched from Cape Canaveral by launching the Atlas-V launch vehicle from the MAVEN automatic interplanetary station designed to study the atmosphere of Mars.
All systems of the SLC-4 launch site worked perfectly - in 13: 18 local time, the vicinity of the cosmodrome shook from the powerful hum of the RD-180 (Russian-made engines used in both stages of the Atlas-V launch vehicle). The 300-ton fire-breathing harness broke away from the launch pad and, sharply increasing its speed, rushed up to meet the stars. After 27 minutes after the launch of the reference near-earth orbit, the engines of the accelerating Centaurus block were launched: MAVEN picked up the second cosmic velocity and entered the departure trajectory to Mars.
The first corrective maneuver is scheduled for December 3. After months of 10, September of 22 of 2014, the station, having flown in the icy black of 300 million kilometers, is to go to the Martian orbit. The scientific mission will begin with a calculated Earth 1 duration.
The launch of the MAVEN program was one of the main intrigues in the 2013 space launches of the year - the complete or partial suspension of US government operations from October 1, 2013 put the planned expedition to the Red Planet at risk, despite the complete readiness of all technical systems of the rocket-space system, and also a successful “time window” for launching to Mars. There was a real threat of disrupting all the scheduled dates and postponing the launch of MAVEN to 2016 year.
And this is despite the fact that the spacecraft itself had already been at Cape Canaveral since August, undergoing intensive training for flight, and a ready Atlas-V launch vehicle was waiting inside the cosmodrome assembly department!
The absurd situation was saved by NASA lawyers, who found a “loophole” in the laws, according to which the launch of the interplanetary probe meets the criteria that exclude MAVEN from the list of forced budget cuts. The five-year work of the staff of the University of Colorado and the space research laboratory at Berkeley University was not in vain - the interplanetary station costing 671 million dollars (the 485 million cost the creation of the probe itself, 187 million were spent on pre-launch preparation and purchase of Atlas V ) was safely sent to the target.
MAVEN became the 45 mission to Mars and the tenth NASA orbital scout in the vicinity of the Red Planet. The name of the probe is a complex abbreviation of Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN, which fully reflects the tasks of the upcoming expedition. MAVEN is designed to study the atmosphere of Mars - a thin gas envelope, whose pressure in the near-surface layer is only 0,6% of the Earth’s atmosphere, and its gas composition is completely unsuitable for human breathing (the Martian atmosphere is almost completely carbon dioxide).
Snapshot of the apparatus "Viking", 1976 year
But even this flimsy atmosphere continues to disappear continuously - the small gravity of Mars is not capable of holding the gas envelope around the planet. Every year, the cosmic wind "blows" into outer space its upper layers, condemning Mars to becoming a frozen stone block, similar to the Moon or Mercury.
But when should it happen? And how was Mars in the distant past, when its gas envelope was not so much discharged yet? What are the rates of extinction of the Martian atmosphere in absolute terms?
This is exactly what the MAVEN apparatus should find out: moving around Mars in an elliptical orbit with the 150 km pericenter and 6200 km apocenter, it must determine the current state of the upper layers and the nature of their interaction with the solar wind. To establish the exact rate of loss of the atmosphere, as well as the factors influencing this process. Determine the ratio of stable isotopes in the atmosphere, which should "shed light" on history Martian climate. Indirectly, this will be able to answer the question: did conditions exist in the past that allowed the presence of liquid water on the surface of Mars?
The only thing that NASA experts are saddened is that due to its extremely elongated orbit, the new orbital probe cannot be used as a repeater for the signals of the Mars rovers.
MAVEN is being tested in a centrifuge.
On board the 8 probe of the most modern instruments:
- a set for studying particles and fields (three analyzers of particles of the “solar wind”, a sensor of Langmuir waves (plasma oscillations) and a pair of induction magnetometers);
- UV spectrometer, which allows remotely determine the parameters of the atmosphere and ionosphere of a distant planet;
- neutral and ionic mass spectrometer to study the isotopic composition of the atmosphere of Mars.
Impressive scientific equipment and life support systems, including an orientation system, an on-board computer, solar batteries and Earth communications equipment, providing data exchange at speeds up to 10 Mb / s - all fit in an 2,3 x 2,3 x 2 meter body (probe width with uncovered solar panels - 11 m). The mass of instruments, systems and scientific equipment - 809 kg.
Was Mars like Earth in the distant past? MAVEN will definitely find out this question. The main thing is to reach your destination safely. And this, as practice shows, is very difficult ...
Flight Chronicles to Mars
Mars is the most visited and most studied celestial body, overtaking even the closest Moon by these criteria. Researchers are attracted to many things: a relatively short flight time (even with existing technologies - less than a year). Suitable surface conditions: the absence of extreme pressures and temperatures, acceptable background radiation, illumination and gravity. Of all the planets, Mars is most suitable for the search for extraterrestrial life (even if in the distant past), and in the future it is suitable for landing on its surface of a manned expedition.
However, the path to the Red Planet is littered with accidents and debris of spacecraft: just over half of the 45 launched expeditions reached the Red Planet. And only a few were able to complete the planned program.
Space does not forgive haste and the slightest mistake. Many of the "explorers of Mars" failed in their mission at the start. This mainly refers to the space race 60-x, when, on the instructions of the party and the government, it was necessary to start up the vehicle at any cost and achieve priority in space. As a result, Mars 1960А, 1960В, and Mariner 8 stations died in the Earth’s atmosphere due to rocket crashes.
Even more stations could get into the reference orbit, but could not reach the departure trajectory: someone got stuck on the DOE, like Phobos-Grunt, and later returned to Earth in the form of a dazzlingly bright race car; someone did not gain the necessary speed for a flight to Mars and disappeared without a trace in the open spaces of heliocentric orbits (Mariner 3). In total, only 45 (including MAVEN) was able to exit from the 31 launched probes to the calculated trajectory to the flight to Mars. To the credit of our country, the first of the spacecraft to head for the Red Planet was the Soviet probe Mars-1 (1 was launched in November of 1962). Unfortunately, the following paragraph tells about it.
The layout of the interplanetary automated station Mars-1
This nightmare begins during the many months flight to Red Flight. One wrong command - and the device, having lost its orientation, loses the possibility of communication with the Earth, turning into useless space debris. There was a similar nuisance with the Mars-1 station - nitrogen leakage from the orientation system cylinders: communication with the station was lost at a distance of 106 million km from Earth. Another device, Zond-2, suffered from incomplete opening of solar panels: the resulting power outages caused the onboard equipment to fail, and Zond-2 quietly died before the eyes of its creators. According to ballistic calculations, 6 August 1965, unguided probe was supposed to pass in the vicinity of Mars.
The Japanese Nozomi probe was very hard and terrible dying in the open spaces of space. The absence of its own launch vehicle of the required power became a bad omen when sending an expedition to a distant planet, however, the ingenious Japanese hoped to gain the necessary speed due to complex gravitational maneuvers in the vicinity of the Earth and the Moon. Of course, everything did not go according to plan - “Nozomi” lost its course. The Japanese managed to calculate the new trajectory and again send the station to Mars, even if it was late on schedule for 4 of the year. Now the main thing - to hold out in open space for a long time. Alas ... A powerful solar flare damaged the fragile probe filling. By the time of approaching Mars, hydrazine froze in the tanks - it was not possible to give out a braking impulse, and “Nozomi” passed in despair 1000 km above the surface of the Red Planet, and did not reach the near-Martian orbit.
Under very offensive circumstances, the American Mars Observer probe (1993) was lost - the connection with it was interrupted just a few days before arriving to Mars. The most likely cause is an explosion of the engine due to leakage of fuel components.
The first who managed to overcome the difficult distance and transfer a photo of the Red Planet close by was the American probe Mariner 4, which flew in the vicinity of Mars in July 1965.
A number of vehicles was lost already in Mars orbit.
27 March 1989 was lost to the Soviet station Phobos-2, by which time 57 was already in Mars orbit. During his work, Phobos-2 transmitted to the Earth unique scientific results on the thermal characteristics of Phobos, the plasma environment of Mars and the erosion of its atmosphere under the influence of the "solar wind." Alas, it was not possible to fulfill the main task of the mission - landing Phobos Pro-F and DAS mini-probes on the surface of Phobos.
In 1999, the American station Mars Climate Orbitter was killed under curious circumstances, burnt on the very first orbit in the atmosphere of the Red Planet. An internal NASA investigation revealed that the working groups of specialists used different measurement systems - metric and traditional Anglo-Saxon (feet, pounds, inches). Since then, NASA has a ban on US units of measurement - all calculations are made exclusively in kilograms and meters.
The landing platform flaps close around the folded rover Opportunity, 2003.
Very big troubles are waiting for someone who dares to land on the surface of Mars - the insidious atmosphere is too weak to rely on the strength of parachute lines, but still too dense to approach the surface at cosmic speed. This sounds unusual, but Mars in terms of landing is one of the most complex celestial bodies!
Landing occurs in several stages: brake engines, aerodynamic braking in the upper atmosphere, slowing down a parachute, again brake engines, engines of soft landing / inflatable "airbags" or a unique "air crane". A separate line is the problem of stabilization.
The heaviest of man-made objects that could be brought to the surface of the planet was the Mars Rover MSL, better known as the “Curiosity” - an apparatus with a mass of 900 kg (weight in the gravitational field of Mars - 340 kg). But, we admit honestly, the flight specialists and outside observers were stunned by the complexity of the landing pattern and the problems encountered during descent in the atmosphere of the planet. 500 thousands of lines of software code, 76 squibs in a certain sequence, separation of the rover from the platform hanging in the air when the jet engines are turned on and soft lowering from a height on nylon cables. Fantasy!
Planet Mars: no water, no vegetation, populated by American robots.
Self-portrait of the rover "Curiosity"
Self-portrait of the rover "Curiosity"
A lot of heroes could survive the vibration and enormous overloads at the stages of launch and acceleration to Mars, withstood the brutal cold of outer space, but they died while trying to land on an insidious celestial body. For example, the Soviet Mars-2 crashed, becoming the first man-made object on the surface of Mars (1971 year).
The first station that made a soft landing on the surface of Mars was the Soviet Mars-3. Alas, due to a corona discharge, 14 seconds after landing, the station failed.
The European probe Beagle-2003 (the landing module of the Mars Express orbital probe) disappeared without a trace in 2 - the device boldly stepped into the crimson atmosphere of the planet, but after that it didn’t contact…
Mars safely keeps its secrets.
PS As of 21 in November 2013, there are two rovers on the surface of the Red Planet - Opportunity (MER-B) and Curiosity (MSL). The first one worked in those conditions already 3586 days - in 39 times longer than the estimated period and crawled over the 38 surface of kilometers during this time.
There are three spacecraft in Mars orbit: the Mars-Odyssey, the Martian orbital reconnaissance aircraft (MRO), and the Mars-Express European probe. The Odyssey lasted the longest - its mission has been going on for the thirteenth year.
A new shift rushes to help the veterans - the Indian probe Mangalyaan (launched on 5 in November 2013), as well as the aforementioned MAVEN. Hopefully, in the near future, Russia will also take an active part in the "Martian regatta" - for 2016 and 2018. Two joint Russian-French expeditions “ExoMars” are planned (a cooperation agreement was signed on 14 in March on 2013). In the same year, 2018, an updated and more advanced Phobos-Soil 2 station should go to Mars. This time everything goes well.
HiRISE high-resolution camera aboard the Martian Orbital Scout (MRO)
Traces of the rover "Opportunity", filmed by an MRO camera
Panorama of Greely Haven. View of Cape York and the crater Endeavor. The panorama was obtained by the Opportunity rover during the wintering season in 2012.