Thursday, September 18, 2014

Get To Work, MAVEN

Atmospheric gas

stripped harshly by solar wind

MAVEN seeks account.
Shamelessly taken from NASA. They give everything away. Your tax dolla-dolla-billz at work!

That's my haiku, currently hurtling toward what's left of the Martian upper atmosphere. I like that NASA and the Planetary Society decided to put all of them on board, instead of just the winners.

Because we're all winners.

MAVEN, or Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN, has been on a planetary trek to the Red Planet for 10 months. This weekend, it will enter its orbit, and begin its mission. There are a couple main scientific queries the spacecraft has been sent there to answer, along with a lot of minor and indirect ones.

The major ones are: What is the current state of Mars' upper atmosphere? What is the current escape rate (of gasses into space)? And, what has the total loss into space been over time?

For the uninitiated, you may be wondering why we want to know the state of another planet's atmosphere. Good grief, those crazy scientists won't shut up about how messed up Earth's is, now they want to poke around Mars?

I know, right?

Deep breath. If we want to send astronauts there one day (soon, I hope, and maybe a person or people I know *fingers crossed*), we kind of want to know what's going on instead of charging in blindly. Basically, we want to know how bad it's going to be for our explorers when we send them, and further down the road, would it be possible to replenish the atmosphere for some long-term tenants.

WHAT?! Yes! There's a line scientists love to say, and Arthur C. Clarke is popular for quoting his friend Larry Niven: "The dinosaurs became extinct because they didn't have a space program." Well, humans have space programs. We need to ensure our species survives (besides stop killing each other, of course!!) by branching out and populating other habitable worlds, in case, you know, Bruce Willis can't drill to 800 feet (that movie is one giant lie, ftr) and Earth meets its fiery DOOM.

Here are some articles in the meeedia you can read.