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Forum:Satellites - Robotic Probes
Topic:NASA's MAVEN to study Mars' atmosphere
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Michael Luther, on behalf of Dr. Ed Weiler, of the NASA Headquarters Science Mission Directorate led a confirmation review panel that approved the detailed plans, instrument suite, budget, and risk factor analysis for the spacecraft.

"A better understanding of the upper atmosphere and the role that escape to space has played is required to plug a major hole in our understanding of Mars. We’re really excited about having the opportunity to address these fundamental science questions," said MAVEN Principal Investigator Dr. Bruce Jakosky of the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado (CU-LASP) at Boulder.

"The team has successfully met every major milestone since selection two years ago," said MAVEN Project Manager David Mitchell of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. "Looking forward, we are well positioned for the next push to critical design review in July 2011. In three short years, we’ll be heading to Mars!"

The confirmation review, formally known as "Key Decision Point C," authorized continuation of the project into the development phase and set its cost and schedule. The next major mission milestone, the critical design review, will examine the detailed MAVEN system design. After a successful critical design review, the project team will assemble the spacecraft and its instruments.

“This project is a vital complement to past, present, and future Mars missions,” said Dr. Michael Meyer, lead Mars Scientist for NASA’s Mars Exploration Program in Washington. “MAVEN will take us a step closer in learning about the evolution of our intriguing celestial neighbor.”

NASA Goddard will manage the project, which will cost $438 million excluding the separately government-furnished launch vehicle and telecommunications relay package. Goddard will also build some of the instruments for the mission. In addition to the PI coming from CU-LASP, the university will provide science operations, build instruments, and lead Education/Public Outreach. Lockheed Martin of Littleton, Colo., will build the spacecraft based on designs from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and 2001 Mars Odyssey missions and perform mission operations. The University of California-Berkeley Space Sciences Laboratory will also build instruments for the mission. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., will provide navigation support, the Deep Space Network, and the Electra telecommunications relay hardware and operations.

Robert PearlmanNASA release
NASA Awards Launch Services Contract for Maven Mission

NASA has selected United Launch Services, LLC of Littleton, Colo., to launch the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution spacecraft known as MAVEN. MAVEN will launch in November 2013 aboard an Atlas V 401 rocket from Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.

The total cost value for the MAVEN launch service is approximately $187 million. This estimated cost includes the task ordered launch service for the Atlas plus additional services under other contracts for payload processing; launch vehicle integration; mission unique launch site ground support; and tracking, data and telemetry services.

MAVEN is a Mars orbiter that will greatly enhance our understanding of Mars' climate history by providing a comprehensive picture of the planet's upper atmosphere, ionosphere, solar energy drivers and atmospheric losses.

NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., manages the MAVEN project. MAVEN's principal investigator is based at the University of Colorado at Boulder's Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics. The Launch Services Program at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida is responsible for launch vehicle program management of the Atlas V launch services. United Launch Alliance provides the launch services for United Launch Services.

Robert PearlmanNASA release
NASA Invites Public to Send Names And Messages to Mars

NASA is inviting members of the public to submit their names and a personal message online for a DVD to be carried aboard a spacecraft that will study the Martian upper atmosphere.

Scheduled for launch in November, the DVD will be in NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft. The DVD is part of the mission's Going to Mars Campaign coordinated at the University of Colorado at Boulder's Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (CU/LASP).

The DVD will carry every name submitted. The public also is encouraged to submit a message in the form of a three-line poem, or haiku. However, only three haikus will be selected. The deadline for all submissions is July 1. An online public vote to determine the top three messages to be placed on the DVD will begin July 15.

"The Going to Mars campaign offers people worldwide a way to make a personal connection to space, space exploration, and science in general, and share in our excitement about the MAVEN mission," said Stephanie Renfrow, lead for the MAVEN Education and Public Outreach program at CU/LASP.

Participants who submit their names to the Going to Mars campaign will be able to print a certificate of appreciation to document their involvement with the MAVEN mission.

"This new campaign is a great opportunity to reach the next generation of explorers and excite them about science, technology, engineering and math," said Bruce Jakosky, MAVEN principal investigator from CU/LASP. "I look forward to sharing our science with the worldwide community as MAVEN begins to piece together what happened to the Red Planet's atmosphere."

MAVEN is the first spacecraft devoted to exploring and understanding the Martian upper atmosphere. The spacecraft will investigate how the loss of Mars' atmosphere to space determined the history of water on the surface.

"This mission will continue NASA's rich history of inspiring and engaging the public in spaceflight in ongoing Mars exploration," said David Mitchell, MAVEN project manager at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

MAVEN's principal investigator is based at the University of Colorado at Boulder's Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics. The university will provide science operations, science instruments and lead Education and Public Outreach. Goddard manages the project and provides two of the science instruments for the mission. Lockheed Martin of Littleton, Colo., built the spacecraft and is responsible for mission operations. The University of California at Berkeley Space Sciences Laboratory provides science instruments for the mission. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., provides navigation support, the Deep Space Network and the Electra telecommunications relay hardware and operations.

Robert PearlmanUniversity of Colorado-Boulder release
CU-led MAVEN mission spacecraft arrives at Florida launch site

The spacecraft for NASA's Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN, or MAVEN, mission to Mars being led by the University of Colorado Boulder has arrived in Florida in anticipation of a November launch.

The spacecraft was shipped on Friday, Aug. 2, aboard a U.S. Air Force cargo plane from Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora, Colo., to the Shuttle Landing Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center on Merritt Island, Fla. Lockheed Martin had previously assembled and tested MAVEN in its Littleton, Colo., facility.

The mission will be the first devoted to understanding the Martian atmosphere, targeting the role that the loss of atmospheric gases to space played in changing the climate through time, said CU-Boulder Professor Bruce Jakosky of the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, principal investigator for the project.

"Everything has gone amazingly smoothly," Jakosky said. "We've gotten to this point with all of the spacecraft's instruments having their full science capabilities, and we firmly believe we can successfully carry out this mission. But we can't afford to get complacent or to lose our vigilance."

CU-Boulder is providing science operations, science instruments and is leading the education and public outreach program. The MAVEN science team includes three LASP scientists heading instrument teams -- Nick Schneider, Frank Eparvier and Robert Ergun -- as well as a supporting team of scientists, engineers, mission operations specialists and students.

"We've been working on this for nearly 10 years, and we are now on the final journey to the launch pad," said Jakosky, also a professor in CU-Boulder's geological sciences department. "It doesn't get more exciting than that."

Lockheed Martin built the spacecraft and is responsible for mission operations. United Launch Alliance, headquartered in Centennial, Colo., will provide the launch vehicle.

Above: A crane lifts NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution MAVEN spacecraft inside the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility on Aug. 3, 2013, at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

MAVEN now will go through a final testing phase in preparation for launch. The MAVEN team will confirm the spacecraft arrived in good condition and re-assemble the components that were removed for the transport from Colorado. The spacecraft is now slated for additional software tests, spin balance tests and further tests on the deployment of the spacecraft's solar panels and booms that will occur once it achieves Mars orbit.

After final testing and fueling, MAVEN will move to Launch Complex 41 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. A United Launch Alliance V-401 rocket will launch the Mars orbiter on its interplanetary trajectory.

The Martian surface, including features resembling dry lakes and riverbeds as well as minerals that form only in the presence of water, suggest Mars once had a much denser atmosphere that supported liquid water on the surface, said Jakosky. "We think that Mars was probably much more Earth-like roughly 4 billion years ago. We want to know how the climate changed, where the water went and what happened to the atmosphere."

The top of the Martian atmosphere is the conduit through which all of the gases have to pass through on their way to space, said Jakosky. The MAVEN scientists will study the atmospheric loss process to space occurring today, then extrapolate to help determine how much of the atmosphere has been lost over the entire history of the planet.

"We are not a life detection mission," Jakosky stressed. "But we are involved in understanding the environment of Mars and how it may have been able to support life. The overriding questions about Mars are whether there was life there in the form of microbes, and if there still could be microbial life in the planet's subsurface."

In a broader sense, MAVEN should help scientists and citizens not only better understand Mars, but also the solar system and beyond. "What we are really trying to do is understand our relationship to the universe around us," said Jakosky "That includes what it means to be alive and what it means to be a civilization. By exploring the universe, we are exploring the human condition."

One of the hallmarks of LASP is the involvement of students in every aspect of its space missions, including MAVEN, said Jakosky. "At LASP we have about 120 students working on different aspects of flight projects ranging from engineering and spacecraft operations to data management and science analysis," he said. "When these students graduate, they find themselves very much in demand around the country because they have tremendous experience."

Robert Pearlman
Countdown underway to MAVEN launching to Mars

Countdown clocks at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida are ticking down to the liftoff of NASA's MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN) mission to Mars. Launch is set for 1:28 p.m. EST (1828 GMT) from Space Launch Complex 41.

Forecasters from the U.S. Air Force 45th Weather Squadron predict a 60 percent chance of favorable weather during the two-hour launch window. The concerns are for cumulus clouds, disturbed weather and thick clouds in the launch area.

Robert PearlmancollectSPACE
NASA launches MAVEN to probe mystery of Mars' missing atmosphere

A NASA spacecraft is now hot on the trail of Mars' missing atmosphere.

MAVEN, which is short for Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN mission, launched Monday (Nov. 18) on a ten-month interplanetary cruise to the Red Planet. Flying atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, MAVEN lifted off at 1:28 p.m. EST (1828 GMT) from Launch Complex 41 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

NASA's 10th orbiter launched to Mars (of which three were unsuccessful) and the first mission dedicated to surveying the Martian upper atmosphere, MAVEN is set to arrive at the fourth planet from the Sun on Sept. 22, 2014. Once in orbit, the spacecraft's eight science instruments will begin one year studying what role the loss of atmospheric gas to space had in changing Mars' climate over time.

Robert PearlmanNASA release
NASA Mars Spacecraft Ready for Sept. 21 Orbit Insertion

NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft is nearing its scheduled Sept. 21 insertion into Martian orbit after completing a 10-month interplanetary journey of 442 million miles.

Flight Controllers at Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Littleton, Colorado, will be responsible for the health and safety of the spacecraft throughout the process. The spacecraft's mission timeline will place the spacecraft in orbit at approximately 9:50 p.m. EDT.

"So far, so good with the performance of the spacecraft and payloads on the cruise to Mars," said David Mitchell, MAVEN project manager at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. "The team, the flight system, and all ground assets are ready for Mars orbit insertion."

The orbit-insertion maneuver will begin with the brief firing of six small thruster engines to steady the spacecraft. The engines will ignite and burn for 33 minutes to slow the craft, allowing it to be pulled into an elliptical orbit with a period of 35 hours.

Following orbit insertion, MAVEN will begin a six-week commissioning phase that includes maneuvering the spacecraft into its final orbit and testing its instruments and science-mapping commands. Thereafter, MAVEN will begin its one-Earth-year primary mission to take measurements of the composition, structure and escape of gases in Mars' upper atmosphere and its interaction with the sun and solar wind.

"The MAVEN science mission focuses on answering questions about where did the water that was present on early Mars go, about where did the carbon dioxide go," said Bruce Jakosky, MAVEN principal investigator from the University of Colorado, Boulder's Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics. "These are important questions for understanding the history of Mars, its climate, and its potential to support at least microbial life."

MAVEN launched Nov. 18, 2013, from Cape Canaveral, Florida, carrying three instrument packages. It is the first spacecraft dedicated to exploring the upper atmosphere of Mars. The mission's combination of detailed measurements at specific points in Mars' atmosphere and global imaging provides a powerful tool for understanding the properties of the Red Planet's upper atmosphere.

"MAVEN is another NASA robotic scientific explorer that is paving the way for our journey to Mars," said Jim Green, director of the Planetary Science Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "Together, robotics and humans will pioneer the Red Planet and the solar system to help answer some of humanity's fundamental questions about life beyond Earth."

See here for discussion of NASA's MAVEN mission to study Mars' atmosphere.

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