The overarching theme of the last decade or so of exploration of Mars is, what happened to the water? There’s evidence of water flowing on Mars at one point in time, perhaps even oceans on Mars. The current atmosphere as it is today is much thinner and cannot support that kind of water on the surface, so MAVEN is going after, what is the current state of the upper atmosphere, how did it change, why did it change, and how did that impact the surface? George Diller: “Five, four, three, two, one. Main engines start, ignition, and liftoff of the Atlas V with MAVEN, looking for clues about the evolution of Mars through its atmosphere.” MAVEN is a mission that is a first of its kind for the Goddard Space Flight Center, that is, a mission going to Mars that is managed by the Goddard Space Flight Center on behalf of the Principal Investigator at the University of Colorado.
With it we provide the project management, which encompasses a whole range of disciplines: safety of mission assurance, the mission systems engineering, mission design, disciplined engineers, and the financial side of this, the tracking, the schedule, the budget. So that’s all part of it. We’re also delivering two of the instruments for the MAVEN mission, one being the magnetometers, there’s actually redundant magnetometers, there’s two on this mission, and there’s a mass spectrometer, again, steeped in heritage of past developments from this particular group at the Goddard Space Flight Center. In fact they have a similar mass spectrometer on board the Curiosity rover at Mars right now. So this is two elements of Goddard, both from a project management standpoint and instrument delivery that are such an integral part of the MAVEN mission. Ultimately, I’m excited about the science that we hope to deliver for the world community and the Mars scientists. It’s going to unlock a piece of the puzzle that we have not been able to do with current rovers or other orbiters to this point in time.
This is another important piece that the scientists have been very interested for many years in what’s happening all the way up through the upper atmosphere.