As NASA‘s Mars rover Curiosity celebrates its first year (Earth year) on Mars, the agency is now looking toward the future of Mars exploration. NASA today announced that its Mars Atmosphere and Volatiles Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft has now arrived at Kennedy Space Center. It has been placed in a cleanroom and is being prepared for its launch sometime during a 20-day launch window beginning November 18.
“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. “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.”
MAVEN is the first NASA mission to study Mars’ upper atmosphere. The research data collected by MAVEN will help researchers determine the role of the red planet’s upper atmosphere in its changing climate. Analyses performed last fall by Curiosity suggests that the top of Mars’ atmosphere was somehow lost.
According to NASA, the MAVEN spacecraft arrived at Kennedy in good condition. The craft will now be reassembled and put through a battery of tests, including software , spin balance, and solar panel tests.
“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 Space Systems. Lockheed Martin designed and built MAVEN. “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.”