May 28, 2017

Astro-Vid Of the Week: A MAVEN for All (Martian) Seasons

An artist’s conception of MAVEN in orbit around Mars. (Courtesy NASA/GSFC).

Its almost here.  Mars mission launch season is almost upon us. About every 24 to 26 months, the orbits of the Earth and Mars align, making a launch possible using minimal expenditure of energy. This usually occurs about 5-6 months before Opposition season, which comes up for the Red Planet next year on April 8th.

The next window opens up in October of this year. Last time ‘round, two spacecraft sought to make the perilous voyage: Mars Curiosity, which made it, and Phobos-Grunt, which didn’t.

Two more spacecraft seek to complete the journey late this year. One is India’s Mars Orbiter Mission, which launches on October 21st, and the other is the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN mission, known as MAVEN.

Built by the University of Colorado at Boulder’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Applied Physics (LASP), MAVEN just arrived at the Kennedy Space Center a few weeks ago in preparation for  launch. MAVEN seeks to unravel the riddle that is the Martian atmosphere. Why did the Red Planet lose so much of its atmosphere in its early history? How does it interact with the solar wind? What is the source of the anomalous methane in the tenuous atmosphere? MAVEN will join Mars Odyssey, Mars Express, and the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter in orbit about the planet and is due for orbital insertion on September 22, 2014.

Besides an armada of instruments, MAVEN also carries the names of tens of thousands of people who submitted them online last year, along with winning haikus about Mars and space exploration on a DVD affixed to its frame. And on a personal note, we’ll be attending a Professional Development Workshop at the LASP in Boulder this coming weekend covering Mars climate and the MAVEN mission. We also expect to attend the launch this coming November as well.

It’ll be all Mars, all the time for the next few months, high times!


  1. [...] discontinued Scout-class of missions, the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN mission, or MAVEN, is due to launch out of Cape Canaveral on November 18th, 2013. Selected in 2008, MAVEN has a [...]

  2. [...] up is NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN mission, or MAVEN spacecraft. Contracted by Lockheed Martin and the University of Colorado at [...]

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