NASA’s MAVEN Orbiter Soars to Space to Study History of Mars Water

by Dr. Ken Kremer:  Universe Today & AAAP

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL – NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) space probe thundered to space on Nov. 18, 2013 following a flawless blast off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 41 at 1:28 p.m. EST atop a powerful Atlas V rocket.

IMG_1870_2b_MAVEN launch_Ken Kremer

MAVEN launches atop Atlas V booster Credit: Ken Kremer

“Hey guys, we’re going to Mars!” gushed Bruce Jakosky, MAVEN’s Principal Investigator at a post launch briefing for reporters.

The countdown went off absolutely perfectly culminating in a spectacular and on time lift off that rumbled across the Florida Space Coast to the delight of cheering crowds assembled for the launch.

The $671 Million MAVEN spacecraft separated from the Atlas Centaur upper stage 52 minutes after liftoff, unfurled its wing like solar panels and thus began a 10-month interplanetary voyage to the Red Planet.  The spacecraft will reach the Red Planet on Sept. 22, 2014.

“We’re heading out to the Red Planet right now,” said MAVEN Project Manager David Mitchell of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center at the briefing, after the 5,400-pound spacecraft was safely soaring through space.

MAVEN’s purpose is to discover the history of water and habitability stretching back over billions of years on Mars and answer key questions about the evolution of Mars, its geology and the potential for the evolution of life.  Mars was once wet billions of years ago, but no longer.  Now it’s a cold arid world, not exactly hospitable to life.  MAVEN will measure current rates of atmospheric loss to understand how the Red Planet may have lost its atmosphere and water over billions of years.  Over the course of its one-Earth-year primary mission, MAVEN will observe all latitudes at altitudes ranging from 93 miles to more than 3,800 miles.

“We want to determine what were the drivers of that change?” said Jakosky.  “What is the history of Martian habitability, climate change and the potential for life?”

Read my Universe Today story for more about MAVEN:

Astronomy Outreach      by Dr. Ken Kremer

AAAP: Princeton University, Princeton, NJ: Dec 10, 8 PM,  “Upcoming Cygnus/Antares ISS Rocket Launch from Virginia.”

Rittenhouse Astronomical Society: Franklin Institute, Philadelphia, PA: Dec 11, 8 PM, “Curiosity, MAVEN and the Search for Life on Mars” and  “Antares ISS Rocket Launch from Virginia.” 

Rodeway Inn: Chincoteague Island, VA: Dec 17/18, Cygnus/Antares ISS Rocket Launch from Virginia.”

Dr. Ken Kremer:  Universe Today & AAAP

Please contact Ken for more info, science outreach presentations and his space photos. Email: kremerken@yahoo.com   website:  www.kenkremer.com, http://www.universetoday.com/author/ken-kremer/

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