Feeds

NASA to sniff Martian atmosphere

MAVEN mission go for 2013

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

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. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
MARS NEEDS WOMEN, claims NASA pseudo 'naut: They eat less
'Some might find this idea offensive' boffin admits
SECRET U.S. 'SPACE WARPLANE' set to return from SPY MISSION
Robot minishuttle X-37B returns after almost 2 years in orbit
LOHAN crash lands on CNN
Overflies Die Welt en route to lively US news vid
Experts brand LOHAN's squeaky-clean box
Phytosanitary treatment renders Vulture 2 crate fit for export
No sail: NASA spikes Sunjammer
'Solar sail' demonstrator project binned
America's super-secret X-37B plane returns to Earth after nearly TWO YEARS aloft
674 days in space for US Air Force's mystery orbital vehicle
Carry On Cosmonaut: Willful Child is a poor taste Star Trek parody
Cringeworthy, crude and crass jokes abound in Steven Erikson’s sci-fi debut
Origins of SEXUAL INTERCOURSE fished out of SCOTTISH LAKE
Fossil find proves it first happened 385 million years ago
Human spacecraft dodge COMET CHUNKS pelting off Mars
Odyssey orbiter yet to report, though - comet's trailing trash poses new threat
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.