Nasa’s Maven mission to search for Mars’ missing water. A new mission to skim a spacecraft through the atmosphere of Mars in an attempt to understand what happened to the planet’s water is due to launch next month. Nasa has given the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution Mission, or Maven, an emergency exemption from the shutdown that is currently crippling the US government.
The spacecraft is scheduled to launch on 18 November and final preparations and testing are currently being performed to ensure it is ready.
The bus sized vehicle is due to spend a year flying through the thin Martian atmosphere, plunging down until it is 77 miles above the planet’s surface.
It will be the lowest an orbiting spacecraft has been around Mars, with previous missions orbiting at more than three times that altitude.
As it flies through the atmosphere, Maven will take samples of the gases there in the hope of measuring the levels of water vapour and the rate at which it is being lost.