MAVEN Launch Live Stream: Watch NASA's Mars Mission Take Off On November 18 [VIDEO]

By Josh Lieberman on November 17, 2013 2:23 PM EST

maven
The MAVEN Mars orbiter will launch tomorrow, November 18. Above, an artist's rendering of MAVEN orbiting Mars. (Photo: NASA/Goddard)

[11/18/13 Update: MAVEN successfully launched today at 1:28 PM EST, as scheduled. Watch NASA's video of the launch here.]

NASA will launch MAVEN tomorrow from Cape Canaveral, Fla., the first ever mission dedicated to exploring Mars's upper atmosphere. The mission, which stands for Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN, is on schedule for a 1:28 PM EST launch. MAVEN will hitch a ride aboard an Atlas V rocket, which will carry the craft for 53 minutes before letting it loose. A series of maneuvers will then position Maven for a 10-month cruise.

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"During cruise, we perform four planned trajectory correction maneuvers where we fire thrusters to tweak the trajectory so that we arrive at the right place and time to go into orbit around Mars," said Guy Beutelschies, the spacecraft operations manager at Lockheed Martin, MAVEN's manufacturer. "At that point, we will fire a set of thrusters to slow down the spacecraft and get captured into orbit."

Once in orbit, MAVEN will use its three instrumental suites to study how Mars's atmosphere, which may have been oxygen-rich 4 billion years ago, became barren and inhospitable to life. "The MAVEN mission will study the nature of the red planet's upper atmosphere, how solar activity contributes to atmospheric loss and the role that escape of gas from the atmosphere to space has played through time," NASA explains in their MAVEN fact sheet.  

MAVEN is NASA's 10th Mars orbiter. Three other probes are currently orbiting Mars: NASA's Mars Odyssey, launched in 2001; the European Space Agency's Mars Express, launched in 2003; and NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter launched in 2005. And on Nov. 5, India launched the Mangalyaan probe, hoping to becoming the first Asian nation successfully orbit Mars.

2013 has been been a big year for Mars exploration. In May, NASA's Curiosity rover found rounded pebbles on the Martian surface, which may have been formed by an ancient river. Two months later, images from the HiRISE camera showed evidence of a former Martian ocean. In September, Curiosity scooped up a cubic foot of Martian soil that, when heated, yielded two pints of water. Also in September, Curiosity found no sign of methane on the Red Planet, disappointing anyone hoping for evidence of life on Mars.

Tune in at 1:28 PM EST on Monday, Nov. 18, to watch the MAVEN mission launch. The NASA livestream of the launch is embedded below.

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