Monday, August 18, 2014
September is going to be very exciting for Mars enthusiasts. The MAVEN spacecraft will be arriving at the red planet around September 22nd. #maven2mars. MAVEN, short for Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN, will be orbiting Mars to study the planet's upper atmosphere.
MAVEN's elliptical orbit will allow instruments provided by the Goddard Space Flight Center to collect atmospheric data as close as 93 miles (150 km) above the Martian surface. Occasional deep dives are scheduled, bringing the orbiting spacecraft as close as 78 miles (125 km). MAVEN will also collect data on solar flare and magnetosphere activity, allowing scientists to study the impact of these forces of nature on Mars' remaining atmosphere.
MAVEN won't be going it alone. The Curiosity rover will transmit its lower atmospheric measurements to the spacecraft, allowing MAVEN to compare its own collected information to Curiosity's. MAVEN will crunch the data into intelligible bits to send to scientists on Earth for study and interpretation.
Scientists hope to use MAVEN's collected data to determine how the once thick and moist atmosphere of the planet's past was lost.
More information about this exciting project, and some stellar lithographs and images, can be found at NASA's MAVEN Website: http://mars.nasa.gov/maven/.
- BONUS FUN STUFF -
NASA has some fun Mars stuff for kids of all ages here on its JPL - Mars website: http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/participate/. I downloaded the "NASA Be a Martian" app for iPhone - they support Android and Windows Phone, too!
If you're really into Mars, you can give the planet a makeover at the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) site: http://lasp.colorado.edu/home/education/k-12/project-spectra/martian-makeover-interactive/. This is a beautiful, interactive Website that lets you play with the planet and make changes to it.
For those who love to design and build things, NASA is interested in your 3D projects, be they plastic, paper, or whatever! http://mars.nasa.gov/mars-makers/#mars-maker-challenges.
And, of course, there is a fun and plausible science fiction novel about a crew of people who landed on Mars to build a habitat, written by me! I Choose Mars is available in paperback and ebook: http://www.ichoosemars.com.