Feeds

NASA to sniff Martian atmosphere

MAVEN mission go for 2013

Build a business case: developing custom apps

NASA has announced it will in 2013 send a robotic mission to Mars to sniff the Red Planet's atmosphere and gain insights into how most of it was lost.

The $485m Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) spacecraft - judged as boasting the "best science value and lowest implementation risk" of 20 mission proposals - will "make definitive scientific measurements of present-day atmospheric loss that will offer clues about the planet's history".

Mars once had a much denser atmosphere which allowed liquid water to swill across its surface, but much of the former went awol "as part of a dramatic climate change". Doug McCuistion, director of the Mars Exploration Program, said: "The loss of Mars' atmosphere has been an ongoing mystery. MAVEN will help us solve it."

NASA elaborates:

After arriving at Mars in the fall of 2014, MAVEN will use its propulsion system to enter an elliptical orbit ranging 90 to 3,870 miles above the planet. The spacecraft's eight science instruments will take measurements during a full Earth year, which is roughly equivalent to half of a Martian year. MAVEN also will dip to an altitude 80 miles above the planet to sample Mars' entire upper atmosphere. During and after its primary science mission, the spacecraft may be used to provide communications relay support for robotic missions on the Martian surface.

The MAVEN team will next autumn begin "mission design and implementation" based on designs from NASA's 2001 Mars Odyssey and 2005 Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The former is currently mainly involved in examining the Red Planet's surface for water and shallow buried ice, while the latter has returned some impressive photos of the surface in its search for possible future landing sites.

The Reconnaissance Orbiter also acts as a comms relay for other Mars missions, including Phoenix.

Since landing in the Martian arctic back in May, Phoenix has been grubbing about for subsurface water ice, evaluating the chemical composition of the planet's soil and keeping a close eye on the weather. It last week spotted dust devils "dancing" across the extraterrestrial plains, as this animated snap shows. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Boffins attempt to prove the UNIVERSE IS JUST A HOLOGRAM
Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?
Our LOHAN spaceplane ballocket Kickstarter climbs through £8000
Through 25 per cent but more is needed: Get your UNIQUE rewards!
LOHAN tunes into ultra long range radio
And verily, Vultures shall speak status unto distant receivers
SpaceX prototype rocket EXPLODES over Texas. 'Tricky' biz, says Elon Musk
No injuries or near injuries. Flight stayed in designated area
Galileo, Galileo! Galileo, Galileo! Galileo fit to go. Magnifico
I'm just a poor boy, nobody loves me. But at least I can find my way with ESA GPS by 2017
EOS, Lockheed to track space junk from Oz
WA facility gets laser-eyes out of the fog
China building SUPERSONIC SUBMARINE that travels in a BUBBLE
Shanghai to San Fran in two hours would be a trick, though
prev story

Whitepapers

Top 10 endpoint backup mistakes
Avoid the ten endpoint backup mistakes to ensure that your critical corporate data is protected and end user productivity is improved.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Backing up distributed data
Eliminating the redundant use of bandwidth and storage capacity and application consolidation in the modern data center.
The essential guide to IT transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIOs automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.