Sunday, November 17, 2013

NASA MAVEN Spacecraft Launching Monday Will Probe Mars Atmosphere Mystery

Inside the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, engineers and technicians prepare the MAVEN spacecraft for encapsulation inside its payload fairing.

Credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

MAVEN, NASA's newest Mars probe is set to launch Monday (Nov. 18), on a mission to help figure out how the Red Planet shifted from a warm and wet world long ago to the cold, dry place we know today.

The Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN spacecraft, (MAVEN) is scheduled to lift off atop an Atlas 5 rocket from Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Monday at 1:28 p.m. EST (1828 GMT).

After a 10-month cruise through deep space, MAVEN will start studying the Red Planet from orbit, seeking clues about how Mars lost most of its atmosphere in the ancient past. You can watch the launch live on via NASA TV beginning at 11 a.m. EST (1400 GMT).

"MAVEN will begin to look at those processes that tell us what happened to Mars' atmosphere, and why Mars perhaps underwent a major climate change in its past," Jim Green, head of NASA's planetary science division, told reporters in a pre-launch briefing late last month.

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