Tuesday, September 23, 2014

MARS - NASA's Maven Spacecraft

"Man on Mars? NASA’s Maven spacecraft explores the possibility" PBS NewsHour 9/21/2014


HARI SREENIVASAN (NewsHour):  Later tonight the NASA MAVEN spacecraft is expected to complete a 10-month voyage to Mars.

Once it’s placed into orbit, NASA scientists plan to gather information about the red planet’s atmosphere — information they hope will offer clues about our own planet’s climate.  For more on the mission significance, yesterday I spoke with the NewsHour’s Miles O’Brien.

Why are space nuts, Mars nerds, all so excited for Sunday night?

MILES O’BRIEN (NewsHour):  Well this is all part of the big tapestry, if you will, of laying the ground work for one day putting human boots on Mars — we hope.  You just don’t fly off in a rocket and land there.  You need to learn about the soil, the ground.

And in this case, the atmosphere.  One of the big questions, the overriding questions, which trouble scientists and which has a lot to do about future exploration of Mars, is, what happened to the planet over the past 3 billion years?

It used to be warm and wet and now it’s awfully dry and awfully cold.  What happened along the way?  Understanding what’s going on in the fringes of the atmosphere, which is what MAVEN will do, will help scientists understand what happened.

Did the solar wind kind of blow the atmosphere away?  Was that a part of what happened to this planet as it went through kind of the ultimate climate change.

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