NASA launches MAVEN to explore Mars
In a bid to dismantle the ancient mystery of Mar’s radical climate change, US space agency NASA launched robotic explorer MAVEN rocketed toward the red planet. The unmanned spacecraft was launched aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 401 rocket from Cape Canaveral in Florida, US. This is NASA’s 21st mission to Mars since the 1960s. But it’s the first one dedicated to studying the Martian upper atmosphere.
Scientists are eager to know why the climate of Mars changed from warm and wet during its first billion year to cold and dry today. The early Martian atmosphere was thick enough to hold water and possibly support microbial life. But much of that atmosphere may have been lost to space, eroded by the sun.
- MAVEN: Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN
- Aim: To study the Martian upper atmosphere and conduct its experiments from orbit around Mars.
- Launched by NASA on November 20, 2013 from Cape Canaveral on Atlas V rocket.
- It is the first spacecraft devoted to exploring and understanding the Martian upper atmosphere.
- Reach Mars on September 22, 2014 after travelling over 440 million miles (700 million kilometres).
- Carries 8 instruments: Neutral Gas and Ion Mass Spectrometer, Imaging Ultraviolet Spectrograph, Magnetometer, Solar Wind Electron Analyzer, SupraThermal And Thermal Ion Composition, Langmuir Probe and Waves antenna, Solar Energetic Particles and Solar Wind Ion Analyzer.