MAVEN spacecraft is on its way to Mars

The MAVEN spacecraft is launched on Nov. 18, 2013 for a 10-month journey to Mars. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
The MAVEN spacecraft is launched on November 18, 2013 for a 10-month journey to Mars. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

Only a couple of weeks after India launched its first-ever mission to Mars, NASA has also just sent another probe to the Red Planet. The Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution Mission (MAVEN) spacecraft was successfully launched yesterday, November 18th, at 1:28 pm EST from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

The launch was virtually flawless, sending the spacecraft on the start of its long 10-month journey, with arrival at Mars expected in Sept. 2014.

“MAVEN joins our orbiters and rovers already at Mars to explore yet another facet of the Red Planet and prepare for human missions there by the 2030s,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said. “This mission is part of an integrated and strategic exploration program that is uncovering the mysteries of the solar system and enabling us to reach farther destinations.”

MAVEN has a unique mission, to study the Martian upper atmosphere, which is still not well understood. It will look for clues as to why Mars has lost most of its atmosphere during its history, changing from a warmer and much wetter world to the cold, dry one we see today.

If all goes as planned, MAVEN will join the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, Mars Odyssey and Mars Express spacecraft which are still orbiting and actively studying the planet.

Unfortunately, MAVEN isn’t equipped to examine the (possible) methane in the Martian atmosphere, but the Indian probe, Mars Orbiter Mission, can, as well as the Curiosity rover and the upcoming European ExoMars mission.

Godspeed, MAVEN!

More information about the MAVEN mission is available here.

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