NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution Mission, or MAVEN, left Earth around 1:30 p.m., Nov. 18 after a successful liftoff from Cape Canaveral, Fla.
The nearly 1 ton spacecraft will orbit Mars to find out how the sun may have stripped Mars of its atmosphere. The satellite will give more insight into the water that once flowed on Mars and what could have happened to it now that most of Mars’ atmosphere has been taken away into space.
MAVEN is expected to reach Mars in September 2014. The spacecraft has a suite of eight sensors including a magnetometer, a solar wind ion analyzer and a natural gas and mass spectrometer. University of Colorado at Boulder Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics built part of the suite.
During MAVEN’s one-year orbit of Mars, it will come as close as 93 miles to the surface. It will pass through Mars’ atmosphere to directly sample the gas and ion composition.
The solar-powered MAVEN was built by Lockheed Martin and will make twice-weekly communications with Earth.
MAVEN has been in development for 10 years and cost about $671 million.
The craft is currently orbiting Earth and will soon start soaking up the sun’s rays to power itself.
Below is a video by NASA showing what MAVEN may look like while orbiting Mars.