Shopping? Check out our latest product comparisons

MAVEN heads for Mars

By

November 18, 2013

MAVEN sets off for Mars (Photo: NASA)

MAVEN sets off for Mars (Photo: NASA)

Image Gallery (20 images)

Today, a new attempt at learning the mysteries of early Martian history came a step closer to an answer. At 1:28 pm EST, NASA’s unmanned Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) probe launched from Space Launch Complex 41, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket. It’s the first step in a mission to study the Martian upper atmosphere and learn more about the history of the planet’s climate.

According to NASA, today’s launch went without a hitch. The Atlas V rocket lifted off on schedule, with the RD-180 engine producing 860,200 lb of thrust. After first stage separation, the Centaur upper stage ignited 4 minutes and 18 seconds into the flight. Its first burn completed, the Centaur coasted until 2:09 pm EST before firing its RL-10 engine again to send MAVEN on its way to Mars.

At 2:20 pm, NASA announced MAVEN’s separation from the Centaur and 20 minutes later, the spacecraft unfurled its solar panels as it began its 10-month journey.

Artist's concept of MAVEN in orbit (Photo: NASA)

Artist's concept of MAVEN in orbit (Photo: NASA)

The MAVEN spacecraft was delivered to Cape Canaveral on August 2 aboard a US Air Force C-17 cargo plane. Since then, it's undergone hardware installations, testing, and fueling. In October, the partial shutdown of the US federal government put the November launch date into jeopardy and almost caused a 26-month delay.

MAVEN’s one-year mission begins in September of next year, when it goes into Martian orbit. Its purpose is to study the history of the Martian atmosphere and the processes that affect it, such as the rate of atmosphere loss, how the upper atmosphere interacts with the solar wind, and the ratios of various isotopes. These will later be compared with similar measurements taken by the Curiosity rover on the Martian surface.

The video below shows the moment of separation from the Centaur upper stage.

Source: NASA

About the Author
David Szondy David Szondy is a freelance writer based in Monroe, Washington. An award-winning playwright, he has contributed to Charged and iQ magazine and is the author of the website Tales of Future Past.   All articles by David Szondy
Tags
Post a Comment

Login with your gizmag account:

Or Login with Facebook:


Related Articles
Looking for something? Search our 27,879 articles