Updated 11:36 AM EDT, Sun, Sep 22, 2019

NASA Spacecraft Orbits Mars: Now What? Mission Details Outlined

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NASA received confirmation late Sunday night that their spacecraft Maven is now officially in orbit of the planet Mars. Maven's purpose is to orbit around the planet collecting vital information about its formation of dust clouds that whirl at speeds upwards of 125,000 miles an hour.

After Maven has orbited for a time it will proceed down into the outer atmosphere to test the air. NASA is curious to find out any information that could help determine how Mars shifted from being a planet hypothetically capable of sustaining life, to the desert that it currently is.

For the next six-weeks Maven will slowly orbit the planet while all its systems are tested by engineers back here on Earth. During this process Maven will shoot photographs of a rare comet occurrence that will pass by Mars, 82,000 miles away, which in terms of space is relatively close. Maven will be on the other side of the planet when most of the comet dust comes crashing down. Once everything is found to be in working order the spacecraft will begin its decent into the upper atmosphere sometime in early November.

Planetary scientists have speculated that 4 billion years ago Mars was a very different planet then it currently appears today. There was supposedly a thick layer of heated carbon dioxide that kept the planet's temperature warm and moist. Evidence of past water has been found by numerous Mars land rovers, which in part has sparked scientists' curiosity.

For whatever reason, the atmosphere of Mars slowly escaped or dissipated into space. The specific reasons remain unknown, but the loss of warm air prompted Mars to become extremely cold, making life on the planet uninhabitable. Through Maven's orbit through the planet's atmosphere, scientists hope that clues will be found that may lead them to finding an eventual explanation.

The total cost of Maven's mission is estimated to be around $671 million. With equipment and years of planning down to the precise measurement, the Maven mission is extremely important. There are not many humans who will ever be able to say that commanded almost a $700 million spacecraft.

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