Sunday, September 21, 2014

NASA spacecraft seeks answers to lost water in Mars. (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution/MAVEN)

A NASA spacecraft designed to investigate how Mars lost its water is expected to put itself into orbit around the Red Planet today after a 10-month journey....

After traveling 711 million km from Earth, the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution, or MAVEN, probe faces a do-or-die burn of its six braking rockets beginning.
If successful, the thruster burns will trim enough speed for MAVEN to be captured by Mars' gravity and fall into a looping orbit.

Over the next six weeks, as engineers check MAVEN's nine science instruments, the spacecraft will maneuver itself into an operational orbit that comes as close as 150 km and as far away as 6,200 km from Mars' surface.
  • Unlike previous Mars orbiters, landers and rovers, MAVEN will focus on the planet's atmosphere, which scientists suspect was once far thicker than the puny envelope of mostly carbon dioxide gas that surrounds it today.
Denser air would be needed for water to pool on the surface. While no water appears there today, Mars is covered with ancient river channels, lakebeds and chemical evidence of a warmer, wetter past.
  • "Where did the water go? Where did the CO2 (carbon dioxide) go from that early environment?" MAVEN lead science Bruce Jakosky, of the University of Colorado, asked reporters this week. "It can go two places: down in the crust or up to the top of the atmosphere where it can be lost to space," he said.
  • MAVEN's focus is the latter. The spacecraft, built by Lockheed Martin, will spend a year monitoring what happens when the solar wind and other charged particles hit the upper layers of Mars' atmosphere, stripping it away.
By studying the atmosphere today, scientists expect to learn about the processes involved and then use computer models to extrapolate back in time. Ultimately, scientists want to learn if Mars had the right conditions for life to evolve.
MAVEN, said Jakosky, will tell them "the boundary conditions that surround the potential for life."
MAVEN will join a fleet of two US orbiters, two US rovers and a European orbiter currently working at Mars. India's first Mars probe is due to arrive on Wednesday.




  1. NASA's MAVEN Spacecraft Arrives to Study Martian Atmosphere ....

    A U.S. spacecraft has arrived at Mars to study the planet's upper atmosphere and help scientists answer questions about how its climate has changed over time.

    The craft named the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution, or MAVEN, completed a 10-month, 711 million-kilometer journey late Sunday.

    It will measure the rates at which gases escape the Martian atmosphere into space.

    Bruce Jakosky, who is leading the science side of the mission, said the goal is to understand what caused significant changes to the climate on Mars during the past few billion years.

    "So we’re looking at what happens at the top of the atmosphere, how the processes involving the sun and the solar wind affect the gas at the top of the atmosphere and strip it away to space. So in essence, that’s our goal, to answer the question where did the water go, where did the carbon dioxide go?” said Jakosky.

    MAVEN will take six weeks to settle into its orbit around Mars and test its instruments before beginning the one-year mission, which carries a price tag of $671 million.

    There are three other spacecraft currently orbiting Mars - two American and one European. Another from India is due to arrive Wednesday.

  2. La sonde américaine Maven est arrivée en orbite de la planète Mars....

    Le vaisseau spatial américain Maven, première sonde visant à percer les mystères de la disparition d’une grande partie de l’atmosphère de Mars dans un lointain passé, a réussi son insertion en orbite de la planète rouge dans la nuit de dimanche à lundi, a indiqué la Nasa.

    « Après dix mois de voyage et avoir parcouru 711 millions de kilomètres, Maven (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution) est arrivée en orbite de Mars tard dimanche », précise la Nasa sur son site internet.

    Des applaudissements ont retenti dans la salle de contrôle de la mission au Jet Propulsion Laboratory en Californie quand l’insertion de la sonde a été confirmée, selon les images de la Nasa retransmises en direct.

    La Nasa n’avait pas encore confirmé l’heure de cette insertion qui était prévue vers 03h50 lundi après l’allumage des moteurs de la sonde pendant une trentaine de minutes pour freiner sa vitesse.

  3. Sonde "Maven" umrundet den Mars....

    Besuch für den Roten Planeten: Die Raumsonde "Maven" ist in die Umlaufbahn um den Mars eingetreten. Von da aus soll sie einem früheren Klimawandel nachgehen.

    Nach einer langen Reise ist die Raumsonde Maven am Mars angekommen. Wie die US-Raumfahrtbehörde Nasa mitteilte, umrundet das Forschungsgerät jetzt den Planeten auf einer Umlaufbahn. Der Eintritt in die Mars-Atmosphäre sei am späten Sonntagabend wie geplant und reibungslos verlaufen, hieß es aus Cape Canaveral weiter. Im Nasa-Kontrollzentrum applaudierten die Mitarbeiter.

    Nun beginnt die Arbeit: Die kommenden sechs Wochen werden Nasa-Techniker damit verbringen, die Höhe der Sonde zu bestimmen und deren Instrumente zu prüfen. Dann soll Maven Anhaltspunkten für einen Klimawandel auf dem Mars nachgehen, der vermutlich vor mehreren Milliarden Jahren stattgefunden hat. Forscher mutmaßen, dass zu wärmeren Zeiten auf dem Mars Bakterien lebten.....................


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