The Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution spacecraft, or MAVEN, is scheduled to launch in late November. NASA is inviting people to join in a Going to Mars Campaign and submit their names online for a DVD to be carried aboard the new Martian orbiter.
After a 10-month journey, the spacecraft will arrive at Mars in September 2014 and explore the planet's upper atmosphere, ionosphere and its interactions with the sun and solar wind. MAVEN will investigate how the loss of carbon dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and water from the Martian atmosphere to space has occurred over time. Scientists hope this new information will give them insight into the history of Mars' atmosphere and climate, liquid water and planetary habitability.
The orbiter also will measure the remains of the Red Planet's magnetic field in hopes of discovering why Mars became a frozen desert when it was once thought to have an abundance of liquid water. Planetary scientists believe that Mars lost its global magnetic field billions of years ago, allowing the solar wind to strip the atmosphere and dry out the planet's surface. Today, Mars has only patches of magnetic field left in the crust.
The MAVEN education and outreach team hope The Going to Mars Campaign offers adults and students worldwide a way to make a personal connection to space, space exploration and science in general, and share in their excitement about the mission.
The DVD will carry every name submitted. Participants are also encouraged to submit a message in the form of a three-line poem, or haiku. However, only three haikus will be selected. The deadline for all submissions is July 1. All who submit their names will be able to print a certificate of participation to document their involvement with the MAVEN mission.
Send your name to Mars at http://lasp.colorado.edu/maven/goingtomars.