Maven joins the party at Mars

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  • Published: Sep 22, 2014
  • Author: Steve Down
  • Channels: Atomic / Infrared Spectroscopy / MRI Spectroscopy / Base Peak / Raman / NMR Knowledge Base / UV/Vis Spectroscopy / Chemometrics & Informatics / Proteomics / X-ray Spectrometry

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The Maven (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution) mission to Mars has just entered a new phase after being placed into orbit around the Red Planet an event that was screened live by NASA TV. It joins the Curiosity Rover on the surface of the planet and the Reconnaissance Orbiter, all seeking to find out more about the history of water on Mars.

Maven will sit in the upper atmosphere in an elliptical orbit which will be 150 km above the surface at its closest. It will study the atmospheric ions to try and ascertain how loss of the atmosphere to space changed the Martian climate over time.

The three primary questions being asked are:

  • What is the current state of the upper atmosphere and what processes control it?
  • What is the escape rate at the present epoch and how does it relate to the controlling processes?
  • What has the total loss to space been through time?  

A suite of instruments will be activated to achieve this. They include the Solar Wind Ion Analyzer (SWIA) and a magnetometer to measure the network of charged particles and magnetic field lines around Mars. Other instruments on board to help achieve the mission goals include a neutral gas and ion mass spectrometer and an imaging ultraviolet spectrometer.

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