At 1:28 PM EST today, the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN mission
(MAVEN) will blast off from Cape Canaveral en route to study the evolution of the red planet's atmosphere.
While the spacecraft will launch in a matter of hours, this launch date almost had to be pushed back two years due to the U.S. government shutdown in October.
As Universe Today reported
earlier today, NASA administrator Charles Bolden had to make the case that continuing to prepare for MAVEN's launch was critical to protecting life and property – a necessary condition that was required for most employees to continue working during the shutdown.
Instead of touting the mission's science objectives, Bolden focused on MAVEN's role as a communications relay for ground missions on Mars. Without MAVEN, Bolden argued
, data coming from the Curiosity and Opportunity rovers may have been lost.
Thanks in part to Bolden's efforts, the MAVEN mission is still on for today. You can watch the launch live on NASA TV in the embedded player below.Live streaming video by Ustream
MAVEN includes three different suites of instruments that will all look at different aspects of the Martian atmosphere and its evolution. In particular, much of the mission will examine how the loss of volatile compounds such as carbon dioxide, nitrogen gas and water vapor, has changed the Martian atmosphere over time.
You can see a detailed explanation of the mission's science objectives on CU-Boulder's Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics' website
Finally, I'll leave you with this video of MAVEN approaching the launch pad on Saturday. Best of luck, MAVEN!