Mars mission back on track despite shutdown

DENVER — A satellite mission to Mars is back on track despite the federal government shutdown that has idled 97 percent of NASA employees after the space agency determined the satellite is required as a communications backup to ensure ongoing contact with the Curiosity and Opportunity rovers currently on Mars.

Lead mission scientist Bruce Jakosky at the University of Colorado said today if the $485 million satellite, with a primary mission to probe the Martian atmosphere, isn’t launched between Nov. 18 and Dec. 7, the launch would have to be delayed for at least 26 months in order to take best advantage of the alignment between Earth and Mars and save fuel.

The Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN satellite, also known as MAVEN, is already waiting at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida to be placed atop an Atlas missile once tests are completed.


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