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NASA’s Next Mars Mission Enters Key Phase

Credit: NASA/LASP

NASA’s next mission to Mars is the spacecraft known as the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN, or MAVEN for short.

MAVEN is set for launch in November 2013.

As a Mars orbiter, MAVEN will be the first mission devoted to understanding the Martian atmosphere, with a goal of determining the history of the loss of atmospheric gases to space through time, providing answers about Mars climate evolution.

By measuring the current rate of gas escaping to space and gathering enough information about the relevant processes, scientists should be able to infer how the planet’s atmosphere evolved over time.

Clues on the Martian surface, including features resembling dry lakes and riverbeds as well as minerals that form only in the presence of water, suggest that Mars once had a denser atmosphere that supported liquid water on the surface, said Bruce Jakosky of the University of Colorado in Boulder.

Jakosky is principal investigator for MAVEN and is based at the University of Colorado at Boulder’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics.

MAVEN’s science instruments are now being integrated onto the spacecraft.

Lockheed Martin designed and built MAVEN. Over the last few months, the company has begun the assembly, test and launch operations (ATLO) phase, a key step in readying the spacecraft for its flight to Mars.

By Leonard David

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