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NASA launches: MAVEN mission

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Just after India successfully launched its maiden Mars mission, America’s NASA also launched a new spacecraft to orbit the Red Planet to probe how it lost its atmosphere and abundant liquid water. MAVEN copy copy.tifThe spacecraft Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) was launched from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida through Atlas V Centaur rocket. The spacecraft separated from an Atlas V Centaur rocket’s second stage 53 minutes after launch. The solar arrays deployed approximately one hour after launch and currently power the spacecraft. The probe is equipped with several different instruments that will explore different parts of the Martian atmosphere. In addition, MAVEN’s sensors will also measure how fast the gasses in the Martian atmosphere are escaping into space. When those measurements are made, scientists hope to be able to extrapolate back in time what the Martian atmosphere looked like when water still flowed freely on the surface. That extrapolation will also provide one more piece of the puzzle as to how Mars became the way it is today. MAVEN is travelling to Mars to explore how the Red Planet may have lost its atmosphere over billions of years. The Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution mission, or MAVEN, is bristling with instruments able to measure the effect of solar wind and analyse thin traces of gases, in order to help scientists model the process that left the planet so dry and barren. Its launch follows findings from NASA’S recent Mars rover mission which supports growing evidence in rock samples that there was once water on the surface of the Mars, protected by a thick atmosphere that could have supported primitive life. Among the eight instruments and nine sensors on board the spacecraft is a magnetometer that will help scientist’s measure changes in the magnetic field around Mars that would once have protected its atmosphere from solar wind. Maven will take nearly a year to reach the red planet and scientists estimate it should be sending back its first results by early 2015.

NASA hopes that its MAVEN mission will pay the way towards launching a manned mission to Mars by the 2030s. The launch of manned mission to Mars requires that NASA’s MAVEN mission provides valuable data that could be used to launch future human mission to the Red Planet. Being optimistic, NASA is hoping that MAVEN will provide key information about how to land a human occupied craft on the planet’s surface. MAVEN will also help scientists understand what kinds of resources are available in the Martian atmosphere and possibly how to utilize them during human exploration.