Launching right on time on the first attempt the NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) mission started with a flawless launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 41. The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying the 5,400-pound spacecraft lifted off at 1:28 p.m. EST, the mission’s first opportunity. MAVEN’s solar arrays deployed and are producing power.
“We’re currently about 14,000 miles away from Earth and heading out to the Red Planet right now,” said MAVEN Project Manager David Mitchell of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.
This is the first mission devoted to understanding the Martian upper atmosphere. MAVEN will determine how much of the Martian atmosphere has been lost over time by measuring the current rate of escape to space and gathering enough information about the relevant processes to allow extrapolation backward in time.
“We’ve managed to work together as a team in a way I never would have imagined possible,” said MAVEN Principal Investigator Bruce Jakosky.
Jakosky added that while the launch is a big milestone, MAVEN must get to Mars and complete a check-out period before it can finally begin collecting science data. It will take the spacecraft 10 months to reach the Red Planet, with arrival scheduled for Sept. 22, 2014.
“Safe travels, MAVEN,” Mitchell said. “We’re with you all the way.”