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MAVEN Mission Undergoing Final Preparations For November 18 Launch

October 29, 2013
Image Caption: This artist's concept shows the MAVEN spacecraft in orbit around the Red Planet, with a fanciful image of her home planet in the background. Credit: NASA/Goddard

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports – Your Universe Online

Final preparations are underway for the launch of NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) mission, which is currently scheduled for November 18.

MAVEN, which will allow scientists to analyze the upper atmosphere of Mars in previously unimagined detail, is scheduled to depart Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 1:28pm on that Monday afternoon. According to NASA officials, the probe will study the specific processes that caused the planet to lose most of its atmosphere.

The 5,400-plus pound spacecraft is scheduled to arrive at Mars in September 2014 and will then enter an elliptical orbit around the Red Planet. Data provided by the mission could tell planetary scientists the history of climate change on Mars. Furthermore, it could offer new insight into the history of planetary habitability.

“The MAVEN mission is a significant step toward unraveling the planetary puzzle about Mars’ past and present environments,” explained John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “The knowledge we gain will build on past and current missions examining Mars and will help inform future missions to send humans to Mars.”

MAVEN is set for a one-year primary mission, during which time it will observe all of Mars’ latitudes at altitudes ranging from just under 100 miles to more than 3,800 miles, the US space agency said. It is also scheduled to execute five deep-dip maneuvers, descending to the lower-most edge of the upper atmosphere (78 miles).

“Launch is an important event, but it’s only a step along the way to getting the science measurements,” said University of Colorado, Boulder’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (CU/LASP) principal investigator Bruce Jakosky. “We’re excited about the science we’ll be doing, and are anxious now to get to Mars.”

“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,” added Dave Mitchell, MAVEN project manager at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. “Now we are poised to launch on that very day. That’s quite an accomplishment by the team.”

MAVEN’s payload will include three different instrument suites: the Particles and Fields Package, which will include six instruments designed to characterize the planet’s solar wind and ionosphere; the Remote Sensing Package, which will determine the global characteristics of the upper atmosphere and ionosphere; and the Neutral Gas and Ion Mass Spectrometer, which will measure the composition of Mars’ upper atmosphere.

“Goddard manages the project and provided two of the science instruments for the mission. Lockheed Martin built the spacecraft and is responsible for mission operations. The University of California at Berkeley’s Space Sciences Laboratory provided science instruments for the mission,” NASA said. The agency added that navigation support will be provided by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, Deep Space Network support, and Electra telecommunications relay hardware and operations.


Source: redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online



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