MAVEN To Head To Red Planet In Late 2013
NASA has selected a Mars robotic mission that will provide
information about the Red Planet's atmosphere, climate history and
potential habitability in greater detail than ever before.
Called the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN)
spacecraft, the $485 million mission is scheduled for launch in
late 2013. The selection was evaluated to have the best science
value and lowest implementation risk from 20 mission investigation
proposals submitted in response to a NASA Announcement of
Opportunity in August 2006.
"This mission will provide the first direct measurements ever
taken to address key scientific questions about Mars' evolution,"
said Doug McCuistion, director of the Mars Exploration Program at
NASA Headquarters in Washington.
Mars once had a denser atmosphere that supported the presence of
liquid water on the surface. As part of a dramatic climate change,
most of the Martian atmosphere was lost. MAVEN will make definitive
scientific measurements of present-day atmospheric loss that will
offer clues about the planet's history.
"The loss of Mars' atmosphere has been an ongoing mystery,"
McCuistion said. "MAVEN will help us solve it."
The principal investigator for the mission is Bruce Jakosky of
the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University
of Colorado at Boulder. The university will receive $6 million to
fund mission planning and technology development during the next
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD will manage
the project. Lockheed Martin of Littleton, CO will build the
spacecraft based on designs from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter
and 2001 Mars Odyssey missions. The team will begin mission design
and implementation in the fall of 2009.
After arriving at Mars in the fall of 2014, MAVEN will use its
propulsion system to enter an elliptical orbit ranging 90 to 3,870
miles above the planet. The spacecraft's eight science instruments
will take measurements during a full Earth year, which is roughly
equivalent to half of a Martian year. MAVEN also will dip to an
altitude 80 miles above the planet to sample Mars' entire upper
atmosphere. During and after its primary science mission, the
spacecraft may be used to provide communications relay support for
robotic missions on the Martian surface.
"MAVEN will obtain critical measurements that the National
Academy of Science listed as being of high priority in their 2003
decadal survey on planetary exploration," said Michael Meyer, the
Mars chief scientist at NASA Headquarters. "This field of study
also was highlighted in the 2005 NASA Roadmap for New Science of
the Sun-Earth System Connection."
The Mars Scout Program is designed to send a series of small,
low-cost, principal investigator-led missions to the Red Planet.
The Phoenix Mars Lander was the first spacecraft selected under the
As ANN reported, Phoenix landed on the icy
northern polar region of Mars on May 25, 2008. The spacecraft
completed its prime science mission on August 25, though the
lander's mission has been extended through September 30... at which
time NASA expects the lander's power supply to wane, due to the
lack of solar energy available during the Martian winter.