A NASA spacecraft that is going to explore Mars’ upper atmosphere in unprecedented detail is undergoing final preparations for a scheduled 1:28 p.m. EST Monday, Nov. 18 launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
The Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution mission (MAVEN) is going to examine specific processes on Mars that led to the loss of much of its atmosphere. John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, said that the MAVEN mission is a significant step toward unraveling the planetary puzzle about Mars’ past and present environments.
The 5,410-pound spacecraft will launch aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 401 rocket on a 10-month journey to Mars. After arriving at Mars in September 2014, MAVEN will settle into its elliptical science orbit
Over the course of its one-Earth-year primary mission, MAVEN will observe all of Mars’ latitudes. Altitudes will range from 93 miles to more than 3,800 miles. During the primary mission, MAVEN will execute five deep dip maneuvers, descending to an altitude of 78 miles. This marks the lower boundary of the planet’s upper atmosphere.
The MAVEN spacecraft will carry three instrument suites. The Particles and Fields Package, provided by the University of California at Berkeley with support from CU/LASP and NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., contains six instruments to characterize the solar wind and the ionosphere of Mars. The Remote Sensing Package, built by CU/LASP, will determine global characteristics of the upper atmosphere and ionosphere. The Neutral Gas and Ion Mass Spectrometer, built by Goddard, will measure the composition of Mars’ upper atmosphere.'