NASA has begun final preparations for the launch of its next Mars mission this year to survey the upper atmosphere of the Red Planet.
NASA’s next spacecraft going to Mars has arrived at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, and is now perched in a cleanroom to begin final preparations for its November launch.
The Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft is undergoing detailed testing and fuelling prior to being moved to its launch pad.
The mission has a 20-day launch period that opens on November 18, NASA said.
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.
“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,” said Mr. Mitchell.
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.
“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.
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.