Last summer, I attended a new media professionals workshop at the Laboratory of Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) in Colorado to learn more about the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) mission which launched last November. This orbiter is specially equipped to discover "What happened to the atmosphere of Mars?" The answers can begin to be answered once the MAVEN maneuvers into Mars orbit tonight.
In October 2013, before the launch, I helped SciAm host a Google Hangout on Air to speak with Chris Impey, astronomer and author of "Dreams of Other Worlds: The Amazing Story of Unmanned Space Exploration" and Nick Schneider, planetary atmospheric scientist a member of the NASA MAVEN Mission Science Team of LASP at the University of Colorado Boulder, about how scientists and engineers overcome challenges of robotic space exploration for successful data collection and to learn exactly how this mission is to determine where Mars' atmosphere went.
After nine months in transit, MAVEN is finally arriving and will enter into orbit tonight. This project stands out in NASA for being on time and on budget, so I'm expecting good things for Bruce Jakosky and the team as they get this one last thing just right!
If you want to follow the action you can do so by watching NASA TV, starting at 9:30 p.m. ET Sunday or hang around on social media, looking for the hashtags #MAVEN and #JourneytoMars. Twitter updates are being posted via @NASA, @MAVEN2Mars and @NASASocial and myself.