|The Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) mission will be the first spacecraft mission dedicated to surveying the upper atmosphere of Mars. MAVEN is a robotic exploration mission to understand the role that loss of atmospheric gas to space played in changing the Martian climate over time. This will help determine when and for how long liquid water could have been stable on the surface, which has implications in answering the question about whether Mars could have ever harbored life.|
MAVEN Launches To Mars
NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) spacecraft, built by Lockheed Martin, was successfully launched today at 1:28 pm ET from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V-401 rocket. The spacecraft has departed Earth and is now on its way to Mars, where it will study the planet’s upper atmosphere.
MAVEN separated from the rocket’s Centaur upper stage 53 minutes after launch. Soon after, it deployed its two solar arrays and started producing power. Initial communication with the spacecraft was then obtained by the mission’s Flight Operations team at Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company’s facility near Denver.
What will MAVEN do?
- Determine the current state of the Martian upper atmosphere, ionosphere, and interactions with solar wind
- Measure properties and processes that will allow us to determine the integrated loss of gas to space through time
- Determine the role that loss of volatiles from the Mars atmosphere to space has played through time, exploring the histories of Mars’ atmosphere and climate, liquid water, and planetary habitability.
The science from this mission will give insight into the history of Mars' atmosphere and climate, liquid water, and planetary habitability overall. It will investigate how much of the atmosphere has been lost over time by measuring the current rate of escape to space and gathering enough information about the relevant processes to extrapolate backward in time. MAVEN will carry three instrument suites that are being provided by CU/LASP, Goddard Space Flight Center and the University of California at Berkeley.