Ok, let’s get one thing out of the way; I’m Lynette, and I’m a huge space nerd. There I said it – you can’t say you weren’t warned. Now that’s out in the open, I want to tell you all about my most awesome nerdy trip down to Cape Canaveral to watch the latest Mars launch; the MAVEN orbiter!
This is the second part of NASA’s recent unmanned Mars missions. The first, you may have heard about, was the rover Curiosity; which is still up there roving around collecting samples. You can even see what @MarsCuriosity and @MAVEN2Mars are up to on Twitter. Curiosity’s Twitter feed is written from a first person – or first robot – perspective, so I find that to be a very amusing feed to check in on! Check out Spirit - my favorite cartoon done about Curiosity by XKCD. Between the cartoon and the Twitter feed, I can’t help but imagine Curiosity having a real personality not unlike the Pixar movie Wall-E.
Now that this second rocket has gone up, I meet a lot of people who are like, “Mars? What…? Didn’t we just send something up there?” Yes…we did, but it was a multi-part mission! MAVEN just doesn’t have the same level of public image that Curiosity has – but it doesn’t make it any less important. NASA has Curiosity roving down below getting pictures and taking soil samples, but MAVEN will orbit around the whole planet, give us a bird’s eye view, and let us take in information about the atmosphere. What we will learn from this mission is where did the atmosphere around the red planet go? There is strong evidence to support that Mars had an atmosphere much like Earth’s, which means there could have been running water – and maybe even microbial life!
Before I got to see the actual launch of the MAVEN rocket (which is mind blowing, and you should put a rocket launch on your bucket list), I got the pleasure of working with real NASA scientists! They schooled me (and about 40 other librarians who were training with me) all about Mars and the MAVEN launch. Let me share the more mind blowing facts:
- Mars has no plate tectonics like Earth, its crust is solid.
- Mars has 2% toxic water on its surface.
- Meteorites usually explode on contact of hitting a planet – which is why you can’t find the evidence of what made the giant crater!
- Mars has lost all, or almost all, or its magnetic field! Which without it the solar winds were able to strip away the atmosphere over time. No atmosphere, no planet protection for water or life. You can read more about Mars' atmosphere on Popular Mechanics' website.
-Lynette, Youth Services, Shawnee Branch