NASA's next Mars-bound spacecraft was cleared for launch in spite of the federal government shutdown. (John Raoux / Associated Press / September 27, 2013)
MAVEN, set for launch between Nov. 18 and Dec. 7, will play a crucial role as a communications relay between Earth and the rovers Curiosity and Opportunity, Jakosky said. That’s a function currently carried out by two aging satellites, Mars Odyssey (launched in 2001) and the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (launched in 2005).
Had MAVEN not escaped the funding freeze, the team could have pushed a launch to Dec. 15 at the latest, about a week after the end of its official launch window, Jakosky said. But beyond that, Earth and Mars would have fallen out of ideal alignment.
More - Link >>> http://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-mars-maven-nasa-launch-government-shutdown-released-20131003,0,217304.story
Source: Los Angeles Times.
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