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How NASA's MAVEN Mars Orbiter Works (Infographic)

Infographic: How the Maven Mars Orbiter probe works.
Maven will orbit Mars, looking for clues about what happened to the planet's once-thick atmosphere. (Image credit: by Karl Tate, Infographics Artist)

Update for Nov. 16: The unmanned Atlas 5 rocket that will launch NASA's MAVEN spacecraft toward Mars on Monday, Nov. 18 at 1:28 p.m. EST (1828 GMT) has rolled out to its launch pad at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. You can watch MAVEN's launch on SPACE.com, courtesy of NASA TV.

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NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) is the first probe of Mars' upper atmosphere. Maven will investigate how Mars' once-thick atmosphere was mostly stripped away, turning the planet from potentially habitable into a barren desert.

Built by Lockheed Martin, the MAVEN spacecraft uses components developed for the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and the Juno Jupiter orbiter.

Photos: NASA's MAVEN Mission to Mars

The cubical main body of the spacecraft houses 3,616 pounds (903 kilograms) of hydrazine fuel and 20 rocket thrusters for precise maneuvering. Two long antennas attached to the man structure are used for collecting data on the properties of Mars' upper atmosphere and ultraviolet rays from the sun.

Videos:

The main high gain antenna transmits data to Earth at up to 550 kilobits per second. Twin solar panels provide 1,135 watts of electrical power when Mars is farthest from the sun.

An articulated boom carrying spectrometers and other instruments pivots to point sensors in the correct direction.

For the latest information on MAVEN, visit:

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Karl Tate
Karl's association with SPACE.com goes back to 2000, when he was hired to produce interactive Flash graphics. Starting in 2010, Karl has been TechMediaNetwork's infographics specialist across all editorial properties.  Before joining SPACE.com, Karl spent 11 years at the New York headquarters of The Associated Press, creating  news graphics for use around the world in newspapers and on the web.  He has a degree in graphic design from Louisiana State University. To find out what his latest project is, you can follow Karl on Google+.