0515 GMT (1:15 a.m. EDT)
NASA's MAVEN spacecraft braked into orbit around Mars on Sunday after a 10-month interplanetary cruise from Earth, positioning the probe to help scientists learn how water and air were stripped from the red planet's ancient atmosphere, killing off life that may have once existed there.

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0420 GMT (12:20 a.m. EDT)
David Mitchell, MAVEN's project manager from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, says tonight's Mars orbit insertion burn was right on the money.

"You get one shot with Mars orbit insertion, and MAVEN nailed it tonight," Mitchell said.

MAVEN's braking burn to enter Mars orbit lasted 34 minutes and 26 seconds, according to Mitchell.

"That was about 11 seconds longer than the nominal, which really means we nailed it," Mitchell said.

"Tracking data indicates we're in a stable capture orbit," he said. "The orbit period is near the target of 35 hours."

0415 GMT (12:15 a.m. EDT)
In a press briefing at Lockheed Martin's MAVEN control center in Denver, mission managers have said the MAVEN spacecraft successfully completed an insertion maneuver to enter orbit around Mars.

"We often talk about how Mars is hard," said John Grunsfeld, head of NASA's science mission directorate. "And once again, this team made it look easy, but it certainly wasn't. It represents many years of very complex work."

0233 GMT (10:33 p.m. EDT on Sun.)
With the arrival of MAVEN, there are now six spacecraft operating at Mars. They are the Mars Odyssey orbiter, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, Europe's Mars Express spacecraft, and the Curiosity and Opportunity rovers.

In just two days, India's first Mars mission is due to enter orbit around Mars, making for seven spacecraft at the red planet.

0225 GMT (10:25 p.m. EDT on Sun.)
MAVEN is in orbit around Mars!
0210 GMT (10:10 p.m. EDT on Sun.)
MAVEN's orbit insertion maneuver should be finished now, but the great distance between Earth and Mars means it takes 12.5 minutes to receive signals confirming a successful burn.
0208 GMT (10:08 p.m. EDT on Sun.)
This burn consumes most of MAVEN's propellant loaded aboard the spacecraft before launch.
0204 GMT (10:04 p.m. EDT on Sun.)
Data streaming down from the MAVEN spacecraft show its engines are still firing. Each engine generates 170 newtons, or 38 pounds, of thrust.
0151 GMT (9:51 p.m. EDT on Sun.)
Mission control confirms MAVEN's Mars orbit insertion burn has begun!
0143 GMT (9:43 p.m. EDT on Sun.)
Engineers inside MAVEN's control center at Lockheed Martin in Denver confirm the MAVEN spacecraft has slewed to the proper orientation for ignition.
0137 GMT (9:37 p.m. EDT on Sun.)
At this point, MAVEN's six main rocket engines should be firing. But it takes more than 12 minutes for signals to reach Earth to confirm the start of the burn.

The sequence begins with a brief firing of six small thrusters on MAVEN, followed by ignition of the six main thrusters for the 33-minute burn to slip into orbit around Mars.

0130 GMT (9:30 p.m. EDT on Sun.)
The commands for MAVEN's orbit insertion burn are already aboard the spacecraft. Ground controllers uploaded the sequence to MAVEN's flight computer on Sept. 16.

"The commands will execute according to the on-board clock, so there's actually nothing that the team needs to do," said Guy Beutelschies, MAVEN program manager at Lockheed Martin, which built the spacecraft for NASA. "The spacecraft will execute all of those on its own.

"It's going to orient itself to get the main engines pointed in the right direction, then at the right time, we will light up the six 170-newton main engines," Beutelschies said. "We're coming in at 4,700 meters per second, and we've got accelerometers on-board that will detect when we've changed our velocity by 1,230 meters per second. At that point, they'll shut off the burn, and that will be approximately 33 minutes after the burn starts."

MAVEN is initially aiming for a highly elliptical orbit around Mars, taking it around the planet once every 35 hours. The targeted low point is at 380 kilometers and the high point should be 44,600 kilometers.

Further rocket burns over the next few weeks will lower MAVEN's orbit to its operational altitude.

2337 GMT (7:37 p.m. EDT)
The Mars-bound MAVEN spacecraft will ignite its six main engines two hours from right now at 9:37 p.m. EDT (0137 GMT).

But ground controllers will only learn of the event about 12-and-a-half minutes later, when radio signals beaming through space at the speed of light reach antennas in NASA's Deep Space Network on Earth.

That confirmation should come at 9:50 p.m. EDT (0150 GMT).

Unlike previous arrival burns of Mars orbiters, MAVEN's insertion maneuver will occur in full radio visibility of mission control at Lockheed Martin's mission support area in Denver.

That's because MAVEN is going into a polar orbit around Mars, ensuring it is in contact with Earth at all times.

2115 GMT (5:15 p.m. EDT)
The latest navigation report indicates the MAVEN spacecraft is right on course for its insertion burn to enter orbit around Mars.

The accurate trajectory means ground controllers have elected not to use a final pre-planned opportunity to adjust MAVEN's course toward Mars, so all is on track for the craft's engine burn to begin at 9:50 p.m. EDT (0150 GMT).

At this time, MAVEN is about 48,000 miles from Mars, which would appear about the size of a baseball held 3 feet away to a stowaway aboard the unmanned spacecraft.

The burn of MAVEN's six main engines will last 33 minutes and 16 seconds and change the craft's velocity by 1,230 meters per second, or 2,751 mph.

2045 GMT (4:45 p.m. EDT)
On the final stretch of a marathon 442 million-mile voyage, NASA's MAVEN spacecraft will perform a make-or-break rocket burn Sunday to brake into orbit around Mars and begin an extensive study of the red planet's atmosphere.

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