NASA ’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution spacecraft, on which students and researchers from the University of Colorado at Boulder worked, was launched Monday from Cape Canaveral in Florida.
“MAVEN’s principal investigator is based at [CU-Boulder’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics],” according to a NASA news release. “The university provided science instruments and leads science operations, as well as education and public outreach, for the mission.”
MAVEN’s mission is to investigate the upper atmosphere of Mars in a quest to better understand how it turned from an Earth-like inhabitable planet to a dry red rock, as well as to prepare for human missions by the 2030s.
According to information from lasp.colorado.edu, LASP was responsible for building MAVEN’s remote sensing package (imaging ultraviolet spectrograph instrument) that “will determine global characteristics of the upper atmosphere and ionosphere via remote sensing.”
Another part of the craft that was built by LASP and the Space Sciences Laboratory is the Langmuir Probe and Waves instrument, which the website says “will measure thermal electron density and temperature.”
The site also the LASP team also works directly with MAVEN developer and builder Lockheed-Martin Space Systems, which is located in Boulder.
The vessel was launched from Cape Canaveral around 1:30 p.m. Monday on the back of a Atlas V Centaur rocket and separated 53 minutes after launch, according to the release. NASA reports that it will take an estimated 10 months for MAVEN to reach Mars next September and then spent five weeks in the orbit of the Red Planet.
In orbit, the craft will “conduct science operations, deploy science appendages, and commission all instruments before starting its one-Earth-year scientific primary mission.”
Both undergraduate and graduate students involved with LASP worked on and continue to maintain MAVEN-related projects under principal investigator Bruce Jakosky.
“After 10 years of developing the mission concept and then the hardware, it’s incredibly exciting to see MAVEN on its way,” Jakosky said in the release. “But the real excitement will come in 10 months, when we go into orbit around Mars and can start getting the science results we planned.”