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Next NASA Mars mission gets go ahead; Lockheed Martin to build spacecraft

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NASA Goddard will manage the project. Lockheed Martin will build the spacecraft; the University of California-Berkeley Space Sciences Laboratory will provide instruments; and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory will provide navigation and networking systems and support.

NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) has received the green light for a 2013 launch. Lockheed Martin will build the MAVEN spacecraft.

On Oct. 4, the NASA project passed its mission confirmation review. Now Lockheed Martin gets the green light to design the spacecraft, which will take measurements to answer questions about Mars' evolution. NASA first outlined the MAVEN mission in 2008.

The next step for the $438 million MAVEN project is a design review in July 2011.

Among the key questions MAVEN will try to answer:

  • What was the atmosphere on Mars' warm enough to support water?
  • What kind of climate change nuked the Martian atmosphere?
  • How does Mars interact with the sun?
  • What's the timeline for changes to Mars?

The goal is to piece together the history of Mars' atmosphere. The MAVEN spacecraft on schedule to launch in November 2013 with arrival to Mars in September 2014. MAVEN is the second mission in the Mars Scout Program. Lockheed Martin built the first spacecraft in the Mars Scout Mission---the Phoenix Mars Lander.

NASA Goddard will manage the project. Lockheed Martin will build the spacecraft; the University of California-Berkeley Space Sciences Laboratory will provide instruments; and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory will provide navigation and networking systems and support.

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Larry Dignan

Editor-in-Chief

Editor-in-Chief Larry Dignan is editor-in-chief of SmartPlanet and ZDNet. He is also editorial director of TechRepublic. Previously, he was an editor at eWeek, Baseline and CNET News. He has written for WallStreetWeek.com, Inter@ctive Week, New York Times and Financial Planning. He holds degrees from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and the University of Delaware. He is based in New York but resides in Pennsylvania. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure