Mars Atmosphere Mission Reaches Critical Milestone
September 13, 2012

Future Mars Mission Enters Final Phase Before Launch

Watch the Video: How Did Mars Lose Its Atmosphere?

Lee Rannals for - Your Universe Online

NASA's Mars Atmosphere And Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) mission is getting closer to launch after reaching a critical milestone.

The project has officially been authorized to transition into the next phase of the mission, which is system delivery, integration and test, and launch.

"The spacecraft and instruments are all coming together at this point," said Bruce Jakosky from University of Colorado, the MAVEN principal investigator. "Although we´re focused on getting everything ready for launch right now, we aren´t losing sight of our ultimate objective — getting to Mars and making the science measurements."

The mission will be the first devoted to understanding the Martian upper atmosphere. The goal of MAVEN, NASA said, is to determine the role that loss of atmospheric gas to space played in changing the Martian climate through time.

"I´m incredibly proud of how this team continues to meet every major milestone on schedule on its journey to Mars," said David Mitchell, MAVEN project manager at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. "Being ready for the start of system level integration and test is critically important to ultimately being ready for launch on November 18, 2013."

The past series of reviews the project completed included technical health of the mission, as well as programmatic health.

NASA said during the current project, the spacecraft bus will be completed, the science instruments will be integrated into it, testing will occur, and everything will be shipped to Kennedy Space Center for integration into the Atlas-V rocket for launch late next year.

The next major review for the MAVEN team is the Mission Operations Review in November 2012, which will assess the project's operational readiness and its progress towards launch.

The MAVEN spacecraft will carry three instruments, including the Particles and Fields Package, the Remote Sensing Package, and the Neutral Gas and Ion Mass Spectrometer.

The spacecraft will launch during a 20-day period from November to December 2013, and will go into orbit around Mars in September 2014.