by Dr. Ken KremerKENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL, – MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN Mission), NASA’s next mission to Mars is scheduled to lift off on Nov. 18, 2013 from Cape Canaveral, Florida on an Atlas V 401 rocket. The 903-kilogram (2000-pound) probe will arrive at the Red Planet in September 2014 after a ten-month interplanetary voyage.
Maven is the first spacecraft from Earth devoted to investigating and understanding the upper atmosphere of Mars. “MAVENS’s goal is determining the composition of the ancient Martian atmosphere and when it was lost, where did all the water go and how and when was it lost,” said CU-Boulder’s Bruce Jakosky, MAVEN’s Principal Investigator in an interview at the Kennedy Space Center.
Scientists hope measurements from MAVEN’s suite of nine science instruments will help answer critical questions like whether the Martian atmosphere was once substantial enough to sustain liquid water on its surface and support life.
I personally inspected MAVEN inside the clean room at the Kennedy Space Center with Bruce Jakosky just prior to the partial shutdown of the US government on October 1. During the ultra-rare viewing opportunity, the solar panels were fully unfurled.
“MAVEN is on schedule and under budget.” said Jakosky as we stood a meter away from the nearly fully assembled spacecraft. “The solar panels look exactly as they will be when MAVEN is flying in space and around Mars.” “To be here with MAVEN is breathtaking,” Jakosky told me. “It’s laid out in a way that was spectacular to see!”
The government shutdown temporarily stopped all work but the mission was granted an emergency exemption after three days of no work. “We are working toward being ready to launch on November 18.” Jakosky told me. “We think it’s very feasible.”
Read more about MAVEN in my Universe Today story.