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Posted: November 19th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: NASA, National Aeronautics Space Administration | Tags: , , , , , | Comments Off on NASA Launches MAVEN


NASA’s latest trick, MAVEN – Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution – has kicked-off with a seamless countdown and flawless launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex. The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying the 2 tonne spacecraft lifted off at 1:28 pm local time.

“MAVEN deployed without a hitch, everything is looking good,” NASA Mission Control said.

The MAVEN mission will measure the effect solar winds have had on stripping its atmosphere of water, carbon dioxide and nitrogen. When a spacecraft was first sent to Mars in the 1960s, it looked like a cratered, battered world, not much different to Earth’s moon ::::

Since 1964, NASA has flown a series of orbiters, landers and rovers to Mars, searching for chemical traces of water or signs that the planet once could harbour life.

MAVEN stands apart from these because it’s the first to focus exclusively on the upper reaches of the red planet’s atmosphere.

“Mars is a complicated system, just as complicated as the Earth in its own way,” Bruce Jakosky of the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics – LASP – at the University of Colorado, and mission leader  said. “You can’t hope, with a single spacecraft, to study all aspects and to learn everything there is to know about it. With MAVEN, we’re exploring the single biggest unexplored piece of Mars so far.”

The spacecraft is scheduled to arrive at the Red Planet on September 22, 2014, when it will slip into an elliptical orbit ranging from a low of 150 km/90 mile to a high of 6,000 km/3,730 miles above the planet’s surface. The craft will take five “deep dips” during the course of the mission, flying as low as 120 km/75 miles, providing a thorough cross-section of the outer atmosphere.

MAVEN is an 2.5 m/8 foot cube weighing about 2.5 tonnes/5,400 pounds at launch — as much as a fully loaded sport utility vehicle. With its twin pairs of gull-wing-shaped solar panels extended, it stretches 11 m/37 feet from wingtip to wingtip.

The spacecraft is fitted with a trio of instrument suites.

The Particles and Fields Package, built by the University of California at Berkeley Space Sciences Laboratory, contains six individual instruments that characterize the solar wind and ionosphere of the planet. The Remote Sensing Package, built by LASP, will determine global characteristics of the upper atmosphere and ionosphere.

The Neutral Gas and Ion Mass Spectrometer, built by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Centre, will measure the composition and isotopes of neutrals and ions.

At its assembly – by Lockheed Martin – MAVEN was blasted with sound waves, shaken on a vibration table, even put through a thermal vacuum test using liquid nitrogen to simulate the cold of space and hot lamps to mimic the sun — all to ensure it was ready for the extremes of liftoff and spaceflight. Finally, the spacecraft was loaded onto an Air Force C-17 cargo aircraft and delivered to the Florida spaceport.

NASA Paints 4 Billion Year Old View of Mars

In timely fashion, as is their way, NASA scientists have released an animation that illustrates what Mars might have looked like, 4 billion years ago.

Leave behind your cold, baron view of Mars, these NASA scientist reckon that it sported a thick, warm atmosphere, supporting oceans and possibley – again, as always – LIFE?

“There are characteristic dendrite structured channels that are consistent with surface erosion by water flows. The interiors of some impact craters have basins suggesting crater lakes, with many showing connecting channels consistent with water flows into and out of the crater,” explained Project Scientist Dr Joseph Grebowsky. “Small impact craters have been removed with time and larger craters show signs of erosion by water before 3.7 billion years ago. And sedimentary layering is seen on valley walls. Minerals are present on the surface that can only be produced in the presence of liquid water.”


RELATED! Aussie Scientists Discover 280 NEW Moon Craters


Australian researchers have discovered 280 new craters on the Moon by combining data about its gravity and surface for the first time. The project, undertaken by a team from Perth’s Curtin University – kicked-off by a Federal Government grant – developed a high-resolution image of the earth’s gravity. Researchers then applied the same technique to the Moon which allowed them to reveal more detailed basins that had never been mapped :: Read the full article »»»»

RELATED! Luna Meteoroid Impact Seen From Earth

Cankler Science NewsA 45-kilogram/100Lb  chunk of random space rock has slammed into the Moon at almost 100,000 kilometres per hour/62,000 miles per hour, creating a bright flash of light as it exploded with a force of 5 tonnes of dynamite, according to NASA.

An automated telescope run by NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office – MEO – captured the images of the March 17 explosion, the biggest seen since NASA began monitoring the Moon for meteoroid impacts 8 years ago.

MEO is the space agencies arm responsible for monitoring meteoroids, helping spacecraft avoid them and engineering craft that can withstand their impact. By measuring the impacts on the moon NASA gains a better understanding not only of the rate of impact, but of the affect impacts have, how to avoid them and how to engineer systems and craft to cope with a space filled with heavy, fast  moving objects.

NASA says this latest flash was so bright that anyone looking at the Moon at the moment of impact would have seen it without a telescope :: Read the full article »»»»

RELATED! Kepler-69 Most Earth-like Planets


Astronomers using a potent NASA space telescope to search for life say they have found planets which are the most Earth-like candidates yet. Two of the five planets orbiting a Sun-like star called Kepler-62 are squarely in the habitable zone – not too hot, not too cold, possibly bearing water – NASA scientists report in the journal Science :: Read the full article »»»»

RELATED! NASA Curiosity Finds Building Blocks of Life on Mars

NASA CuriosityNASA scientists reckon rock samples from Mars have shown that the dusty red planet would once have been capable of supporting life. Analysis of Mars rocks by the Curiosity Rover uncovered the building blocks of life – hydrogen, carbon and oxygen – and evidence the planet could once have supported organisms, NASA said.

“A fundamental question for this mission is whether Mars could have supported a habitable environment,” Michael Meyer, lead scientist for NASA’s Mars Exploration Program said. “From what we know now, the answer is yes.”

At a televised press conference, the NASA team said this was the first definitive proof a life-supporting environment had existed beyond Earth. Curiosity, a six-wheeled robot with 10 scientific instruments on board, is the most sophisticated vehicle ever sent to another planet.

The sample was drilled from sedimentary bedrock in an area which previous research had shown to be an ancient river system or lake bed. It was found to contain clay minerals, sulfate minerals and other chemicals :: Read the full article »»»»

RELATED! Mars a Little Like… Uh, Hawaii

Cankler Science News - NASA - Mars Curiosity, Landscape Like HawaiiNASA’s superneat Mars rover Curiosity has found soil that bears a striking resemblance to volcanic sand in Hawaii. In the first study of the red planet’s soil, Curiosity determined the grains have crystals similar to basaltic soils found in volcanic regions on Earth.

The rover uses an X-ray imager to reveal the atomic structures of crystals in the Martian soil, the first time the technology – x-ray diffraction – has been used to analyse soil beyond our planet.

“The mineralogy of Mars’s soil has been a source of conjecture until now,” Curiosity scientist David Vaniman said, from the Planetary Science Institute.”This interest isn’t just academic,” he added. “Soils on planets’ surfaces are a reflection of surface exposure processes and history, with information on present and past climates.”

The minerals were identified in the first sample of Martian soil ingested recently by the rover. Curiosity used its Chemistry and Mineralogy instrument – CheMin – to obtain the results, which are filling gaps and adding confidence to earlier estimates of the mineralogical makeup of the dust and fine soil widespread on the Red Planet.

NASA plan to use the information about Mars’s minerals to figure out if the planet most like Earth in the solar system could have supported and preserved microbial life :: Read the full article »»»»

source: NASA
image source: NASA

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