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MAVEN – update

21 Oct

I stated in a previous post that my brother is involved on the MAVEN space project which is scheduled to launch in November. I thought I would provide a little background on the project and as the launch date approaches, give you some accounting of the launch prep and firsthand impressions of the launch itself.

T minus twenty-eight days and counting!

M- Mars

A- Atmosphere

V- Volatile

E- EvolutioN

The goal of MAVEN is to determine the role that loss of atmospheric gas to space played in changing the Martian climate through time. Where did the atmosphere – and the water – go?

MAVEN will determine how much of the Martian atmosphere has been lost over time by measuring the current rate of escape to space and gathering enough information about the relevant processes to allow extrapolation backward in time. – NASA website.

The Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution spacecraft is currently at the Kennedy Space Center undergoing thorough tests of software and hardware systems. You can view launch preparations live on NASA’s Kennedy Space Center webcams at: http://countdown.ksc.nasa.gov/elv/. (Note – This link requires a JAVA download.) These activities are in preparation for a November 18 launch date.

The MAVEN spacecraft must be able to orient itself, aim its instruments in the right direction, carry out steering maneuvers to communicate with Earth and stay on its Mars-bound course. The processing team must verify critical systems to insure the spacecraft will be able to perform these tasks during its journey. MAVEN’s steering thrusters and star-tracker guidance system were previously tested and final flight software installed. At approximately 5,400 pounds, it takes and big launch vehicle to put it into a trajectory to reach Mars in ten months.

The Atlas V 401 rocket that will launch MAVEN toward Mars arrived in Florida on Aug. 26. The rocket, built by United Launch Alliance of Centennial, Colo., will stand nearly 200 feet tall when fully assembled.

Atlas V (401) launches with Iro and Icross Satellites

An Atlas V (401) launches with satellite

According to the NASA website, MAVEN will not be rolling about on the surface looking for clues to the planet’s heritage. Instead, MAVEN will orbit high above the Red Planet in the upper atmosphere searching for signs of what changed over the eons and why.

The mission will use instruments that can pinpoint trace amounts of chemicals high above Mars. The results are expected to test theories that the sun’s energy slowly eroded nitrogen, carbon dioxide and water from the Martian atmosphere to leave it the dry, desolate world seen today.

That kinda sounds like global warming, doesn’t it? However, I want to stick to the facts and not speculate on what the mission may or may not find out. Some of the details regarding the project management are really cool. Talk about a deadline, if the Maven spacecraft was late getting to the Launch site. The entire project would need to be postponed 26 months until the planets realigned! No kidding.

For future posts, I’m trying to obtain an interview with one of the key mission participants which I hope would be a very interesting conversation. Also, I will take deeper look at some of the other Mars missions and what sorts of interesting tidbits have been gleaned from them that relate to the MAVEN mission.

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22 Comments

Posted by on October 21, 2013 in MAVEN

 

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22 responses to “MAVEN – update

  1. Matthew Wright

    October 22, 2013 at 11:16 pm

    This is such an important science mission – and SO cool that you’re going to see the launch. Not to mention your brother’s involvement. Look forward to seeing the interview – and your other posts. As you know, I’m a sucker for space stuff!

     
  2. Dennis Langley

    October 24, 2013 at 6:39 am

    Actually, I was surprised he would go along with the interview. Because of his hectic schedule, it’s going to take a little time to get it done. It should be fun though.

     
  3. Jade Reyner

    October 27, 2013 at 11:16 am

    Makes you realise how time sensitive these missions are! Does that mean that there really are no martians then…?? 😦

     
    • Dennis Langley

      October 28, 2013 at 5:50 am

      It surprised me a little until I thought about the navigation and propulsion systems. Then it made sense. They use planetary gravity to help accelerate the spacecraft t cruising speeds. If the planets are not aligned just right you either hear a very expensive crash or you have a run away train.

       
      • Jade Reyner

        October 28, 2013 at 9:12 am

        Neither of which seems to be a particularly attractive option! 🙂

         
      • Dennis Langley

        October 28, 2013 at 9:15 am

        Not when there is a gazillion dollars at stake. 😉

         
      • Jade Reyner

        October 28, 2013 at 9:16 am

        Is that even a number?? 🙂

         
      • Dennis Langley

        October 28, 2013 at 9:19 am

        Yep. It’s just shy of the US national debt!!! 🙂

         
      • Jade Reyner

        October 28, 2013 at 9:20 am

        Wow! They better not crash that thing then – otherwise you’ll all be rowing your way over here….! 🙂

         
      • Dennis Langley

        October 28, 2013 at 9:25 am

        You offering to put us all up in your home? 😐

         
      • Jade Reyner

        October 28, 2013 at 9:27 am

        Now that would be fun…! Ha ha. 🙂

        I reckon if you’re rowing wooden boats, then at least half of you won’t make it, so we should be fine! 🙂

         
      • Dennis Langley

        October 28, 2013 at 9:33 am

        Haven’t you heard were cut down all of the trees to make paper to create books. The boats would be made out of plastic water bottles.

         
      • Jade Reyner

        October 28, 2013 at 10:27 am

        Plastic bottles? Well then I think you stand even less chance of making it. I’ll just make up the one spare room then! LOL! 🙂

         
      • Dennis Langley

        October 28, 2013 at 10:36 am

        I did swim a mile once. Does that count?

         
      • Jade Reyner

        October 28, 2013 at 10:57 am

        Erm….. no. Best get into training!

         
      • Dennis Langley

        October 28, 2013 at 10:59 am

        Good thing for me, the project is on time! 😮

         
  4. Pete Denton

    October 27, 2013 at 2:47 pm

    Fascinating post. I’ve just been reading up about the Mars One project again. I find anything about the Red Planet inspiring, I just wish we’d been there already!

     
    • Dennis Langley

      October 28, 2013 at 5:53 am

      Yeah, funding cutbacks and focus on the shuttles and space station pretty well killed Mars projects for a long time.

       
  5. Christopher Patterson

    October 27, 2013 at 10:16 pm

    I used to love space exploration and facts about the planets in our solar system when I was young. I took Astronomy for all of my science classes, and somehow became one of the first people ever to graduate college without having to take some combination of physics/biology/or chemistry. I hate to ask this question, but how much is the bill for a project like this?

     
  6. Dennis Langley

    October 28, 2013 at 5:57 am

    I hope to gather a little more info on that. However, I’m sure the bottom line is huge. There are several corporations involved in different areas of the project. BIG corporations. This project has been ongoing for a long time. Stay tuned.

     
  7. 4amWriter

    October 31, 2013 at 3:53 am

    Indeed it does sound like global warming, in which case got me thinking that perhaps Mars was once exactly like Earth billions of years ago until…well, it dried up. This would be an important scientific discovery with the potential of helping us prevent a similar disaster. If, of course, that is what happened to Mars.

     
    • Dennis Langley

      October 31, 2013 at 7:20 am

      It would also be nice to know, if that is what happened, that it took place over millions of years and not two or three decades!

       

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