NASA prepping for Maven's mission to Mars



CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - In November, NASA is planning to launch a spacecraft to study the history of the Martian atmosphere.

The Maven will launch aboard an Atlas V rocket for its 10-month journey to Mars.  After that, its primary mission will last for about one year.

"What we're learning is the history of the inhabitability of Mars through microbes, what turned it from a planet that could support life early in its history to the cold dry desert we see today," said Maven's principal investigator, Bruce Jakosky.  "But there's still a lot of science we can do after that, and we think it can last as long as 10 years."

"We're fortunate to see the spacecraft just like it's going to look on its way to Mars," said project manager Guy Beutelschies of Lockheed Martin.

The spacecraft is weeks from the open of its launch window, but Channel 9's Melonie Holt got a sneak peek Friday of NASA's "clean room," where the spacecraft is being prepared.

Mission managers told Holt they are concentrating on reaching the beginning of their Nov. 18 launch window.

"If the government tells us to shut down, we will, but we're working full speed until then," said Jakosky.

If NASA misses its launch window, it'll be 26 months before the planets realign for another attempt.