Tuesday November 19, 2013 0 commentsCAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - A $671 million NASA mission led by the University of Colorado Boulder successfully lifted off from Cape Canaveral Monday on a 10-month flight to Mars.
Known as the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN), the spacecraft was launched aboard an Atlas V rocket provided by United Launch Alliance in Centennial.
The mission will focus on the role the loss of Mars' atmosphere played in changing the planet from a warm, wet and possible hospitable environment for life into the cold, dry and inhospitable place it appears to be today.
"Our team is really excited," said Bruce Jakosky, MAVEN's principal investigator at CU-Boulder's Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP).
"Everything went absolutely perfectly, exactly as we had planned when we accepted the challenge to develop this mission five years ago. Now, it's on to Mars."
The spacecraft is carrying three instruments suites. A Remote Sensing Package built by LASP will determine global characteristics of the Martian upper atmosphere, while other instruments will measure composition of neutral gases and ions and the solar wind and ionosphere of the planet.
NASA selected the Maven mission in 2008. Jakosky said scientists believe Mars was once much more like Earth and want to determine why the climate changed, where its water went and what happened to its atmosphere.
CU-Boulder is also providing science operations and directing education and public outreach efforts related to the mission.
The MAVEN is slated to begin orbiting Mars in September 2014.