5 Things You Should Know About NASA's MAVEN Spacecraft

Monday, 18 November 2013 - 10:17AM
Monday, 18 November 2013 - 10:17AM
5 Things You Should Know About NASA's MAVEN Spacecraft
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Today, NASA are set to take their latest steps towards a deeper understanding of Mars with the launch of the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN probe aka 'MAVEN'. It is hoped that MAVEN, the latest in a line of highly advanced scientific spacecraft from NASA, can give scientists an insight into the mysterious evolution of the Red Planet.


Mars is now a barren wasteland of a planet, but it wasn't always like that, with the planet once being sheathed in a warming and insulating atmosphere, which allowed for a more hospitable environment. It is this mystery of how Mars lost its atmosphere that NASA hopes to unravel with its MAVEN mission. 


You'll be hearing a lot about this spacecraft over the next little while, not just as it blasts off on its epic journey, but also once it reaches  Mars and begins scientific operations. So to keep you ahead of the game, here are some key facts about NASA's interplanetary space lab.


1. MAVEN launch details:

MAVEN is scheduled to on an Atlas 5 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Base in Florida at approximately 1.28pm E.S.T


2. MAVEN mission cost

The total cost of the MAVEN mission is estimated at approximately $651 million dollars, $187million of this total is racked up by launch costs. 


3. MAVEN almost got delayed by more than 2 years because of the Government:

Yep. Remember when the Government shutdown, causing thousands upon thousands of Government employees out of work? Well, because of that shutdown and the fact that it forced around 18,000 NASA workers to down tools, the MAVEN project was in danger of being delayed so heavily it would miss its launch window. Now, that might not sound like too much of a disaster, but when you consider the next window wasn't for another 26 months, it is not hard to see why NASA fought to gain emergency funding so they could continue to work towards their November 18th launch date. They achieved their goal, claiming that the MAVEN probe was essential to maintaining communications with other scientific assets currently on Mars.


4. MAVEN has a long journey ahead of it:

While a successful launch is an exciting part of any mission, the scientific operations are what really peek one's interest. Unfortunately, because space is so damned large, we will have to wait 10 months for MAVEN to reach its destination, meaning we won't hear of any scientific readings until at least September 2014. 


5. MAVEN is jam-packed with scientific instruments:

When MAVEN reaches Mars it will have at its disposal, 3 advanced scientific suites containing a total of 8 different sensors.

- The Particles & Field Package (PFP) was built by a team at the University of California, Berkeley and contains six sensors which will help take a range of measurements regarding Ion interactions and Solar Winds.

- Built by the University of Colorado the Remote Sensing Package will study the upper atmosphere of Mars using an Imaging Ultraviolet Spectrometer.

- Finally, the Neutral Gas and Ion Mass Spectrometer (NGIMS) package will measure the composition and isotopes of neutral gases and ions.


For more info and updates, visit NASA's dedicated MAVEN mission page...