UC Berkeley staff assembled today at the Space Sciences Laboratory to watch NASA's newest Mars-bound mission, MAVEN, blast off. More than half of the instruments aboard the spacecraft were built at UC Berkeley.

MAVEN was designed to find out why Mars lost its atmosphere and water. Scientists believe that Mars once had an atmosphere, oceans and rivers similar to Earth. Yet today it is a red and dusty sphere drier than any desert on Earth.

From its Martian orbit, the spacecraft will collect evidence to support or refute the reigning theory that the main cause was loss of its magnetic field 3.5 to 4 billion years ago, which allowed the solar wind and solar storms to scour the atmosphere away. Water not frozen under the surface would have quickly disappeared also. The answer to this question will give planetary scientists a hint of what the future may bring for other planets, including Earth.

Berkeley scientists built two-thirds of the instruments in the Particles and Fields Package aboard the spacecraft. These instruments will characterize the solar wind and the ionosphere of the planet.
Video by Roxanne Makasdjian, UC Berkeley Media Relations
Graphic animation and footage of satellite, courtesy of NASA
full story: newscenter.berkeley.edu/2013/...

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