NASA selects robotic mission to study Mars atmosphere in 2013

September 16th, 2008 - 5:34 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, September 16 (ANI): NASA has selected a Mars robotic mission that will provide information about the Red Planets atmosphere, climate history and potential habitability in greater detail than ever before, in 2013.

Called the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) spacecraft, the 485 million dollar mission is scheduled for launch in late 2013.

The selection was evaluated to have the best science value and lowest implementation risk from 20 mission investigation proposals submitted in response to a NASA Announcement of Opportunity in August 2006.

This mission will provide the first direct measurements ever taken to address key scientific questions about Mars evolution, said Doug McCuistion, director of the Mars Exploration Program at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

Mars once had a denser atmosphere that supported the presence of liquid water on the surface. As part of a dramatic climate change, most of the Martian atmosphere was lost.

MAVEN will make definitive scientific measurements of present-day atmospheric loss that will offer clues about the planets history.

The loss of Mars atmosphere has been an ongoing mystery, McCuistion said. MAVEN will help us solve it, he added.

After arriving at Mars in the fall of 2014, MAVEN will use its propulsion system to enter an elliptical orbit ranging 90 to 3,870 miles above the planet.

The spacecrafts eight science instruments will take measurements during a full Earth year, which is roughly equivalent to half of a Martian year.

MAVEN also will dip to an altitude 80 miles above the planet to sample Mars entire upper atmosphere.

During and after its primary science mission, the spacecraft may be used to provide communications relay support for robotic missions on the Martian surface.

According to Michael Meyer, the Mars chief scientist at NASA Headquarters, MAVEN will obtain critical measurements that the National Academy of Science listed as being of high priority in their 2003 decadal survey on planetary exploration. (ANI)

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