NASA’s Maven to reach Mars tonight

NASA’s Maven spacecraft, a probe set to examine Mars’ upper atmosphere, is set to make its orbital insertion later today.

NASA’s Maven spacecraft is on track to reach the red planet late Sunday night following a journey spanning 10 months and 442 million miles.

If all goes well, the robotic explorer will slip into Martian orbit for a year or more of atmospheric study. It’s designed to circle the planet, not land.

Maven’s mission involves studying the effects of the solar wind on Mars’ atmosphere and to determine the rate at which key elements of the atmosphere effectively “leak out” into space. The idea is to figure out the process by which Mars went from a warmer, wetter planet millennia ago to the cold and dry world it is today. I certainly wish the team at NASA well and I hope this probe continues the stellar performance of NASA’s other Mars missions, particularly Spirit and Opportunity.