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NASA's MAVEN Mission Spurs Human Planetary Exploration Beyond Near-Earth Orbit

The Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution, or MAVEN, mission will orbit Mars to seek answers to fundamental mysteries that scientists have yet to solve regarding the origin of the Martian planet's atmosphere and climate. How did the Sun strip the planet of its ability to harbor microbial life forms? What happened to the abundant water and thick atmosphere that were once present on Mars? Finding the answers to these questions will be MAVEN's mission: to study the atmosphere of Mars by measuring the loss of Martian atmospheric gas to space and figure out how this had affected the planet's climate over time to create what it is now -- barren, desert-like and cold. Dr. Bruce Jakosky, University of Colorado's Associate Director for Science in the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics and MAVEN’s principal investigator, provided me with some excellent insight on what this exploratory Mars mission hopes to achieve in the months before the launch date on Nov. 18 and what MAVEN means for the future of human space exploration.