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NASA set to launch MAVEN mission to Mars on Nov 18

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An artistic illustration of MAVEN spacecraft orbiting Mars. A NASA image

WASHINGTON (BNS): Come November, and all eyes are set on Earth's neighbour -- Mars.

Even as India is getting ready to launch its maiden mission to explore the Red Planet by sending its Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) 'Mangalyan' on Nov 5, elsewhere, a NASA craft is all prepped up to explore the Martian atmosphere for the first time in "unprecedented" detail.

The US space agency's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) spacecraft is undergoing final preparations for launch onboard an Atlas V -401 rocket on November 18.

The rocket carrying the 5,410-pound (2.45-ton) spacecraft is scheduled for lift off from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida at 1:28 p.m. EST (1828 GMT).

After charting a 10-month long journey, MAVEN will arrive on Mars in September, 2014.

"The MAVEN mission is a significant step toward unraveling the planetary puzzle about Mars' past and present environments," said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

"The knowledge we gain will build on past and current missions examining Mars and will help inform future missions to send humans to Mars."

The Lockheed Martin-built orbiter will be the first-ever mission to survey the upper atmosphere of Mars in an effort to understand the role that the loss of atmospheric gas to space played in changing the Martian climate.

The data obtained from the mission will help scientists reconstruct the Red Planet's past climate. Scientists will use MAVEN data to project how Mars became the cold, dusty desert planet we see it today.

Over the course of its one-Earth-year primary mission, MAVEN will observe all of Mars' latitudes. Altitudes will range from 93 miles to more than 3,800 miles. During the primary mission, MAVEN will execute five deep dip manoeuvres, descending to an altitude of 78 miles. This marks the lower boundary of the planet's upper atmosphere, the space agency said.

MAVEN will carry three scientific instruments -- the Particles and Fields Package to characterise the solar wind and the ionosphere of Mars; the Remote Sensing Package to determine global characteristics of the upper atmosphere and ionosphere; and the Neutral Gas and Ion Mass Spectrometer to measure the composition of Mars' upper atmosphere.

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NASA  MAVEN  Mars  India  Planet  
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