NASA to sniff Martian atmosphere
MAVEN mission go for 2013
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."
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. ®
they could of just put a sensor of the last probe. they should use the speed of entry and make a glider.
Terraforming has been a popular subject when discussing Mars for decades. However, there are various problems. The atmosphere - way too thin and if 'thickened' it will always leak away, as has been said, by a combination of low gravity and Solar wind stripping as there is no magnetic field to deflect the wind. Radiation - way too high, again as there is no magnetic field. Plant and animal life would have a hard time and die off easily, microbial life (specially selected for radiation endurance) might be about it. Even if it were possible to do any decent level of terraforming, all humans would still have to walk around in radiation protective suits with personal air supplies.
There is water on Mars... http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/08/01/phoenix_finds_water/
I'm just pissed we're not already terraforming the place.