Friday, January 3, 2014

NASA's MAVEN to Explore Climate Change on Mars

Earth is not the only planet to suffer the impacts of climate change. A new space probe is currently en-route to study how the Martian climate underwent a drastic change from a planet with water and an atmophere to a cold, dry, dead rock.

On November 18th, 2013, NASA launched the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 41. The 5,400-pound, $671 Million MAVEN spacecraft separated from the Atlas Centaur upper stage some 52 minutes after liftoff, unfurled its solar panels and began a 10 month interplanetary voyage to the Red Planet. Maven is scheduled to begin orbiting Mars on September 22, 2014.

MAVEN will explore the planet's history of water and habitability stretching back over billions of years. The year long mission will seek answers key questions about the geological history of Mars, and the potential for the evolution of life.

In the distant past, Mars is thought to have been a potentially habitable planet with lakes, oceans, clouds, and rain. But then something happened that striped away the Martian atmosphere and any remaining surface water, transforming it into the barren landscape we see today.

MAVEN will assume an elliptical orbit where it will pass through and sample the upper Martian atmosphere and also conduct ultraviolet imaging of the planet. MAVEN's mission is to try and learn why Mars went from harboring water and an atmosphere more like that of Earth, to a lifeless rock.

© 2014, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.

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