Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) is the planned space exploration mission to send a space probe to orbit Mars and study its atmosphere.

The project, which will launch on November 13, will help determine what caused the Martian atmosphere —and water— to be lost to space, making the climate increasingly inhospitable for life.

617842main_Sandra CauffmanWorking on the US$670 million dollar project that involves more than 400 scientists across the United States is Costa Rica’s own, Sandra Cauffman,  who is NASA’s Deputy Project Manager.

Sandra has been working with NASA for the last 21 years. Sandra graduated from the Universidad de Costa Rica (UCR), as an Industrial Engineering major. After 3 years at college in Costa Rica, she went to the United States and transferred to George Mason University changing majors to Electrical Engineering. In her 7 year plan (3 in Costa Rica and 4 in the United States) she received 2 B.S. degrees, Electrical Engineering and Physics. She also have a M.S. in Electrical Engineering also from George Mason.

Asked about “What excites you about your job”? Sandra answers, “The question should be ‘what does not excite me about my job?’ I love my job! I love working with a very committed team. I believe in the NASA mission. I wanted to work for NASA since I was around 7 years old. There has never been a day when I did not want to come to work. Even when things have been difficult, I always say “if it is not hard, then there is no point in doing it”. NASA is all about tackling the impossible and working to see the impossible become a reality.

In this video, produced by NASA, Cauffman explains NASA’s interest is to understand why the Martian atmosphere weakened to the point of becoming the 10% the size of Earth’s atmosphere.