NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) mission began with a smooth countdown and flawless launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's Space Launch Complex 41. The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying the 5,400-pound spacecraft lifted off at 1:28 p.m. EST, the mission's first opportunity. MAVEN's solar arrays deployed and are producing power.
"We're currently about 14,000 miles away from Earth and heading out to the Red Planet right now," said MAVEN Project Manager David Mitchell of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.
MAVEN Principal Investigator Bruce Jakosky joined Mitchell in praising the mission team for its drive and commitment. NASA Goddard in Greenbelt, Md., manages the project and provided two of the science instruments for the mission. Lockheed Martin built the spacecraft and is responsible for mission operations. The University of California at Berkeley's Space Sciences Laboratory provided science instruments for the mission. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., provides navigation support, Deep Space Network support, and Electra telecommunications relay hardware and operations. Jakosky is with the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado at Boulder.
"We've managed to work together as a team in a way I never would have imagined possible," Jakosky said.
Jakosky added that while the launch is a big milestone, MAVEN must get to Mars and complete a check-out period before it can finally begin collecting science data. It will take the spacecraft 10 months to reach the Red Planet, with arrival scheduled for Sept. 22, 2014.
"Safe travels, MAVEN," Mitchell said. "We're with you all the way."