NASA’s ‘Maven’ Orbiter Launched
On Monday, NASA launched the Maven orbiter from Cape Canaveral, Florida. The orbiter, whose name stands for Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN. was attached to a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket. Maven is about the size of a bus and weights in a 2.4 tons. If everything goes according to schedule, the orbiter will reach Mars in just under a year. Maven is intended to study the upper atmosphere of Mars. It will hopefully determine what changes took place to make Mars into the cold, desolate planet it is today. Previously it was a warm, moist planet.
Previous Mars-related missions include the Curiosity rover. Curiosity has been on the Martian surface for over a year now. According to a report from NBC News it has collected evidence that billions of years ago the planet could have supported life. Since then scientists have been wondering what happened and Maven will hopefully shed some light on it.
“MAVEN is an astrobiology mission,” said Bruce Jakosky, MAVEN’s Principal Investigator from the University of Colorado at Boulder, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.
“We want to determine what were the drivers of that change?” said Jakosky. “What is the history of Martian habitability, climate change and the potential for life?”
Maven is equipped with nine sensors. The sensors are built into eight scientific instruments. It can monitor solar radiation as well as gauge current atmospheric loss. It will also work to localize Mars' magnetic umbrellas, which today are very localized and jumbled. All of these factors and more will be used to create new models for the planet's changes over time.