MAVEN Ready for Mars

Categories: Mars News Brief

This artist's concept shows the MAVEN spacecraft in orbit around the Red Planet. Credit: NASA/Goddard

This artist’s concept shows the MAVEN spacecraft in orbit around the Red Planet. Credit: NASA/Goddard


Update (Sept 22): MAVEN successfully entered Mars orbit at 10:24 p.m. EDT Sunday, Sept. 21, 2014!


 

This coming Sunday, Sept. 21, 2014, NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft is set to enter orbit around Mars after a ten month journey through space. After traveling 711 million kilometers, MAVEN’s thrusters will briefly light up to perform the orbit-insertion maneuver.

It took 11 years to turn MAVEN from a concept on paper into a new member of the international fleet of robotic explorers currently at Mars. MAVEN will join Mars Express, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, Mars Odyssey, and rovers Curiosity and Opportunity. MAVEN is the first mission dedicated to observing Mars’ upper atmosphere and its interaction with the solar wind.

In preparation for Sunday, you can read all about MAVEN, its science goals, and the instruments it carries in this series of News Exclusives from Astrobiology Magazine:

Lights, Camera, MAVEN: A Mission to Uncover the History of Mars
Fires in the Sky: MAVEN Satellite Looks for Mars’ Missing Atmosphere
The Spinning Compass

MAVEN just before launch. Credit: Courtesy of Lockheed Martin

MAVEN just before launch. Credit: Courtesy of Lockheed Martin

MAVEN will collect data about Mars’ upper atmosphere and provide new insight into the history of Mars’ atmosphere, climate, liquid water, and planetary habitability. Long ago, Mars was a much more suitable place for life, with a dense atmosphere and liquid water at its surface. However, at some point in its early history the planet lost much of its atmosphere. This atmospheric loss could have been part of the reason that Mars ended up as the cold, desert world we know today.


NASA-Targeting Mars. Credit: NASA Goddard (YouTube)