Today NASA launches MAVEN, their latest MARS MISSION.
NASA is launching another mission to Mars. Going down today. The latest little scientific jaunt (is there any other kind at this point? Blessed be Uncle Ray’s heart — no) is aimed at figuring out just where the fuck Mars’ water went.
Today, NASA will launch a new mission — one that cost $671 million and has been in development for 10 years — to determine what happened to the water on Mars. The Curiosity rover has given us some insight into the conundrum, such as confirming that Mars used to host liquid water by spotting visible stream beds. Curiosity also established, via chemical analysis, that water still exists in Martian soil. It could be that some of the missing water has been absorbed into the soil or simply frozen. But scientists are intrigued by another possibility — water on Mars may have evaporated and been lost to space.
The agency will now investigate that exact hypothesis with a new probe, called MAVEN, which will orbit around our red neighbor. MAVEN stands for Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN, and as the name implies, MAVEN’s mission is to characterize the Martian atmosphere. Researchers will use the data gathered by MAVEN to construct a history of the climate on Mars and paint a picture of how Mars lost its water.
Of course, this is no simple task. “It keeps you up at night,” says Janet Luhmann, the deputy principal investigator of the MAVEN project. Luhmann is excited about how this mission will further our knowledge of Mars, but the exuberance at what she hopes MAVEN will reveal is tempered by the costs of bringing the project to fruition. “It’s an investment financially. It’s an investment in human energy and effort, and you want to make sure it succeeds, so it’s stressful.”