Feeds

NASA to sniff Martian atmosphere

MAVEN mission go for 2013

Security for virtualized datacentres

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. ®

Security for virtualized datacentres

More from The Register

next story
Boffins say they've got Lithium batteries the wrong way around
Surprises at the nano-scale mean our ideas about how they charge could be all wrong
Thought that last dinosaur was BIG? This one's bloody ENORMOUS
Weighed several adult elephants, contend boffins
Europe prepares to INVADE comet: Rosetta landing site chosen
No word yet on whether backup site is labelled 'K'
City hidden beneath England's Stonehenge had HUMAN ABATTOIR. And a pub
Boozed-up ancients drank beer before tearing corpses apart
'Duck face' selfie in SPAAAACE: Rosetta's snap with bird comet
Probe prepares to make first landing on fast-moving rock
Archaeologists and robots on hunt for more Antikythera pieces
How much of the world's oldest computer can they find?
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.