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Mars-bound spacecraft blasts off with UC instruments aboard

Narrator:       This is Science Today. More than half of the instruments aboard NASA's newest Mars-bound spacecraft, called MAVEN, were built at the University of California, Berkeley. Peter Harvey is flight software lead for the mission.

Harvey:          These instruments as a whole will determine what kind of chemistry is in the upper atmosphere of Mars. It's conceivable that the science will show that there was a global warming event on Mars and we could learn from that. So, we never know.

Narrator:       MAVEN blasted off last month for a 10-month trip to settle into Mars orbit and study what remains of the Red Planet's atmosphere.

Harvey:          We're going to be able to learn the history of a planet by going into its atmosphere. It used to be rather dense like the Earth's atmosphere. It's now very, very thin and not breathable. So, we wonder why Mars lost that atmosphere. It would be great to know if there was an event that caused it or chemistry that caused it that we could apply to Earth.

Narrator:       For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.