NASA Satellite to Investigate Mars Climate History

NASA satellite will probe mars atmosphere


NASA has now launched its new satellite to analyze Mars atmosphere in order to figure out what happened to cause such dramatic climate changes.  From previous studies, the red planet seems to have had a warm and moist environment.  Remember when they discovered that water actually flowed on Mars surface.  So NASA has made it their mission to analyze as much as possible as to why such huge climate changes occurred on the now dry and desolate, desert like planet, as for any water to exist the atmosphere must have been warmer and denser long ago.  This whole mission could be a starting point to whether this red planet even had the capability to support life for future research.  NASA’s satellite really could give us the breakthrough we need when investigating Mars climate change history.

The new NASA satellite was named MAVEN, short for ‘Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN.’   For some time now mars has had a very dry, desolate, and thin atmosphere.  In such an environment, water can only exist if frozen or it would just evaporate.  It is thought that during severe storms and solar wind, it resulted in Mars losing it’s protective magnetic field 3.5 million years ago.  It will take at least about one full earth year to examine this cause with the satellite along with the use of the other 8 instruments that are slowly gathering data.

The mission costed about 671 million total in order obtain the data scientists seek.  The Mars satellite was launched on the United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket, while inside a protective cone on top of the rocket.  Do you know how much thrust it takes for such a rocket to take off?  It takes about 860,000 pounds of thrust just to get it into orbit!  The first stage of the launch helps push the rocket out of the Earth’s lower, dense atmosphere and then detached around four minutes after the rocket launched.  The NASA satellite is also going to take data from other aspects of the atmosphere that include electrically charged particles and solar radiation that was sent out from the sun.

Scientists also want to know were all of the carbon dioxide went from the early atmosphere as well.  There are a couple probabilities that are being considered as to what happened on this beautiful red plant.  Was it the lack of a magnetic field, or the sun’s effects that caused the atmosphere to slowly become thinner, thus resulting in the loss of water?  Or did the tremendous amounts of CO2 and water end up being encased in the planet’s crust?  But of course lastly, they could have been just lifted up and lost in outer space.  This is a huge conundrum to think about, and it can be potential link to our own atmosphere and what to prevent in the future if our atmosphere continues to become damaged.

One major interest to question is what happens to the atmosphere during high instances of solar activity?  The answers for this of course will lead to how our primitive sun worked as well.  Researchers want to know what makes planets habitable to non-habitable, and what a planet needs to keep certain living organisms thriving.

So now we wait until the NASA satellite MAVEN reaches its destiny which is about a 3,728 mile journey until it reaches its location for orbiting around Mars.

By Tina Elliott

 USA Today

CBS News



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