NASA Prepares Launch To Mars To Explore Martian Atmosphere


Despite the recent Government shutdown, NASA is preparing to launch a rocket to Mars on November 18 from Cape Canaveral Florida, which will examine, in-depth, the atmosphere of the red planet.  The Spacecraft will launch aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 401 rocket.  The journey will take 10 months, arriving in September of 2014.  According to the Scientists at NASA, “The Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution mission (MAVEN) will examine specific processes on Mars that led to the loss of much of its atmosphere.  Analysis of the data measures could give scientists insight in to the history of climate change on the Red Planet and provide further information on whether life ever existed on Mars.

MAVEN, according to NASA scientists, “will observe all of Mars’ latitudes. Altitudes will range from 93 miles to more than 3,800 miles. During the primary mission, MAVEN will execute five deep dip maneuvers, descending to an altitude of 78 miles. This marks the lower boundary of the planet’s upper atmosphere.”  The MAVEN Spacecraft will carry 3 instrument suites.  The first is “The Particles and Field package” which contains six instruments to measure the solar winds and ionosphere of Mars.  The second group of instruments is the “Remote Sensing Package” which will determine global characteristics of the upper atmosphere and ionosphere of Mars. And the third package is “The Neutral Gas and Ion Mass Spectrometer”, which will measure the composition of Mars’ upper atmosphere.

Dave Mitchell, MAVEN project manager at Goddard Spaceflight Center in Maryland when discussing the project said, “When we proposed and were selected to develop MAVEN back in 2008, we set our sights on Nov. 18, 2013, as our first launch opportunity. Now we are poised to launch on that very day. That’s quite an accomplishment by the team.”  Goddard is managing the project and provided two of the science instruments for the mission. The University of California at Berkeley’s Space Sciences Laboratory provided the other science instruments for the mission.  Lockheed Martin built the spacecraft and is responsible for mission operations.

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