We’re so excited about AddThis user, NASA, launching on another endeavor into space! Next Monday, NASA will launch a probe to Mars. It’s called the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN probe, or MAVEN, and it’s designed to study the upper atmosphere of Mars and how it interacts with solar wind. Though it might not make sense at first, this information is very important for knowing more about the history of Mars and it’s past potential for habitability.
Scientists think Mars had water on its surface because of the shorelines, dry riverbeds, and eroded impact craters we’ve seen on the planet. In many ways, it was a lot like Earth, but with one important difference: Mars has a much weaker magnetic field.
The magnetic field of Earth shields our atmosphere from the solar wind, which is a stream of charged particles that come from the sun. Without this magnetic field, these charged particles would strike our atmosphere and knock atoms of it into space, slowly evaporating it like a puddle evaporates in the sun. This will cause air pressure to slowly drop, meaning liquid water on the surface will boil away. Scientists think this is what happened on Mars, and the MAVEN mission will help them gather data to test this hypothesis.
If everything goes as planned, MAVEN will be launched at 1:28PM on November 18th from Cape Canaveral atop an Atlas V booster, and will arrive at Mars in September 2014.
Let’s wish them luck with this incredible and exciting voyage!