NASA is planning to lower the orbit of it’s MAVEN mission signalling a change to its initial mission.
MAVEN, which stands for Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution, will be lowered to 4,500 above the surface of Mars from its current altitude of 6,200. Apart from its primary mission of sensing the atmosphere MAVEN will also act as a relay satellite to communicate with InSight rover.
“The MAVEN spacecraft has done a phenomenal job teaching us how Mars lost its atmosphere and providing other important scientific insights on the evolution of the Martian climate,” said Jim Watzin, director of NASA’s Mars Exploration Program. “Now we’re recruiting it to help NASA communicate with our forthcoming Mars rover and its successors.”
NASA MAVEN’s lower altitude means shorter orbit
The lowered altitude will not only help communicate with InSight but will also help bring increase the number of times it can circle Mars almost 6.8 times per 24 hrs up from 5.3 previously.
This will result in more frequent contact with the InSight and during the time it’s not relaying communication to NASA on Earth, it will continue to study Mars’ atmosphere..
InSight has entered a crucial phase where it has successfully deployed its first sensor, a seismometer (SEIS) fully and encased it in a shield. InSight is in process of deploying its second subsurface heat sensing sensor.
Read more here at NASA/JPL.