NASA is set to launch a new mission to Mars today, November 18, and it will be aired live on NASA TV. The scheduled probe is known as the agency’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution spacecraft (MAVEN) and its liftoff from its Atlas V rocket is being aired live on NASA TV starting at 11 a.m EST.
The MAVEN spacecraft, carrying a hefty price tag of $671 million, is being launched in an effort to explore Mars’ atmosphere. This is the first probe to investigate the upper atmosphere of mars.
Scientists say that this investigation could reveal what the planet’s history entails. The current speculation is that a thick atmosphere once enshrouded the planet and that fluid water may have once been a supported part of the planet’s environment.
There was, however, a distinct turning point for Mars and its atmosphere. At some point Mars underwent a change that metamorphosed the planet into the cold and stark desert we see it as today. The planet’s present-day atmosphere is 1 percent the thickness of earth’s atmosphere.
MAVEN will orbit Mars as it searches for clues that will lead scientists to the facts around the planet’s history and its present state.
NASA chief Charlie Bolden has reported that it is fully believed that Mars was once a planet almost exactly like earth is today. The mission is aimed at explaining just what happened to the Mars and its atmosphere to make it into the stark planet it is today.
MAVEN is set to assist the scientists in deciphering the relationship between the sun and Mars’ Martian atmosphere. MAVEN is the 10th Mars probe launched by NASA and the scientists are optimistic that the probe will yield some answers as it measures the environment along its travels. The MAVEN journey is a 10- month long endeavor and is set to join three other probes that are currently active in orbit around Mars.
If the probe launches on schedule, its expected time of arrival will be on the 22nd of September 2014. MAVEN’s journey is one and a half months longer than its most recent predecessor, the Curiosity rover, which took eight and a half months to reach its destination.
The newest addition to these probes, the MAVEN probe, has a relay system that will act as a backup communication system for the probes already in orbit around the mysterious red planet. MAVEN has been set with the facility to act as a bridge, a relay point, between earth and the rovers already on Mars. This means that with the addition of MAVEN, the relayed information between earth and Mars from the existing rovers will be enhanced.
Examining Mars from above is the Mars Odyssey, European Space Agency’s Mars Express and NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
There are currently two rovers on the surface of Mars, transmitting valuable information from the red planet back to earth. These rovers are the Nasa’s Mars rover Curiosity and the Opportunity rover.
MAVEN is a solar-powered spacecraft and spans a total of 37.5 feet- the length of a school bus- when it deploys its solar panels. MAVEN weighs in at an impressive 2,454 kilograms, which is comparable to the weight of a fully loaded SUV.
NASA hopes the new spacecraft, MAVEN, will offer new insight into the upper atmosphere of Mars and the interaction and effect of the sun’s ultraviolet rays and the launch of this significant mission can be viewed live, from the comfort of your computer screen on NASA TV, 11 a.m EST.