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NASA Begins Launch Preparations for Next Mars Mission



            NASA Begins Launch Preparations for Next Mars Mission

PR Newswire

WASHINGTON, Aug. 5, 2013

WASHINGTON, Aug. 5, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- NASA's next spacecraft
going to Mars arrived Friday, Aug. 2, at the agency's Kennedy Space Center in
Florida, and is now perched in a cleanroom to begin final preparations for its
November launch.

(Logo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20081007/38461LOGO )

The Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft is undergoing
detailed testing and fueling prior to being moved to its launch pad. The
mission has a 20-day launch period that opens Nov. 18.

The spacecraft will conduct the first mission dedicated to surveying the upper
atmosphere of Mars. Scientists expect to obtain unprecedented data that will
help them understand how the loss of atmospheric gas to space may have played
a part in changing the planet's climate.

"We're excited and proud to ship the spacecraft right on schedule," said David
Mitchell, MAVEN project manager at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in
Greenbelt, Md. "But more critical milestones lie ahead before we accomplish
our mission of collecting science data from Mars. I firmly believe the team is
up to the task. Now we begin the final push to launch."

Over the weekend, the team confirmed the spacecraft arrived in good condition.
They removed the spacecraft from the shipping container and secured it to a
rotation fixture in the cleanroom. In the next week, the team will reassemble
components previously removed for transport. Further checks prior to launch
will include software tests, spin balance tests, and test deployments of the
spacecraft's solar panels and booms.

The spacecraft was transported from Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora, Colo.,
on Friday, aboard a U.S. Air Force C-17 cargo plane. Lockheed Martin Space
Systems in Littleton, Colo., designed and built the spacecraft and is
responsible for testing, launch processing, and mission operations.

"It's always a mix of excitement and stress when you ship a spacecraft down to
the launch site," said Guy Beutelschies, MAVEN program manager at Lockheed
Martin. "It's similar to moving your children to college after high school
graduation. You're proud of the hard work to get to this point, but you know
they still need some help before they're ready to be on their own."

Previous Mars missions detected energetic solar fields and particles that
could drive atmospheric gases away from Mars. Unlike Earth, Mars does not have
a planet-wide magnetic field that would deflect these solar winds. As a
result, these winds may have stripped away much of Mars' atmosphere.

MAVEN's data will help scientists reconstruct the planet's past climate.
Scientists will use MAVEN data to project how Mars became the cold, dusty
desert planet we see today. The planned one-year mission begins with the
spacecraft entering the Red Planet's orbit  in September 2014.

"MAVEN is not going to detect life," said Bruce Jakosky, planetary scientist
at the University of Colorado Boulder and MAVEN's principal investigator. "But
it will help us understand the climate history, which is the history of its
habitability."

MAVEN's principal investigator is based at the University of Colorado
Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics in Boulder. The university
provides science instruments and leads science operations, education and
public outreach.

Goddard manages the project and provides two of the science instruments for
the mission. Lockheed Martin built the spacecraft and is responsible for
mission operations. The University of California at Berkeley's Space Sciences
Laboratory provides science instruments for the mission. NASA's Jet Propulsion
Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., provides navigation support, Deep Space
Network support, and Electra telecommunications relay hardware and operations.

To learn more about the MAVEN mission, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/maven

SOURCE NASA

Website: http://www.nasa.gov
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