BOULDER - When the MAVEN mission begins its 10-month journey to Mars on Nov. 18, it will carry scientific instruments students at the University of Colorado-Boulder had a hand in designing and building.
"We're doing it with student help every step of the way. So students are involved in the designing, the MAVEN mission, in operating it and figuring out what happened at Mars," CU associate professor Nick Schneider said.
Schneider is also a researcher at the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics.
Once the MAVEN reaches Mars and is in orbit it will begin collecting data to study the climate history of Mars.
"Every picture taken of Mars shows that it was once warm and wet, lots of atmosphere, lots of water and now it is cold and dry. MAVEN is going to try to solve the mystery of, the way I look at it, what went wrong on Mars," Schneider said.
CU students not only had a hand in designing and building instruments on board MAVEN, they will also help to control the spacecraft from a mission operations center on the CU-Boulder campus. It gives students the opportunity to go beyond theoretical study and apply it to a hands-on situation and send commands to the space craft.
"It is a really cool experience. It is great to actually send some things to a real satellite made by NASA and actually in space and it is all very exciting and interesting," said Sean McGill, an astro physics student who works in the mission operations center.
Colorado's connections to the MAVEN mission go well beyond CU-Boulder. The orbiter was built by Lockheed Martin and United Launch Alliance will deliver the craft into space aboard an Atlas V-401 rocket.
MAVEN will collect data about the climate history of Mars for one year.
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