A sense of Mars: Atmospheric probe

Skip to Navigation

Ezine

  • Published: Dec 1, 2012
  • Channels: UV/Vis Spectroscopy
thumbnail image: A sense of Mars: Atmospheric probe

Mars MAVEN

A remote sensing instrument that will peer into the ultraviolet to offer clues to how Mars might have lost its atmosphere has arrived at Lockheed Martin for integration into NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) spacecraft. Credit: NASA

A remote sensing instrument that will peer into the ultraviolet to offer clues to how Mars might have lost its atmosphere has arrived at Lockheed Martin for integration into NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) spacecraft.

In a classic acronym shoehorning, NASA will see its MAVEN spacecraft launch late in 2013 carrying remote sensing equipment to Mars with a view to peering into sparse atmosphere of the Red Planet in the ultraviolet part of the electromagnetic spectrum. The data the sensors send back to Earth will hopefully offer planetary scientists new clues as to how Mars lost much of its atmosphere in the first place - whether it was due to a cataclysmic collision or the havoc wreaked by solar wind or perhaps some author cause.

MAVEN project manager David Mitchell based at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland told a press conference that he is "looking forward to the instrument's next level of integration on to the spacecraft and ultimately the science it will provide." 

Remote mission

The Remote Sensing package consists of an Imaging UltraViolet Spectrograph (IUVS) and its electronic controls and the essential data processing unit. The system is based on a design and build by the University of Colorado's Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at Boulder under NASA Goddard contract.

"The IUVS performs 'remote sensing,' meaning we can study the planet and its atmosphere at a distance through the light it emits," explains lead scientist Nick Schneider of CU/LASP. "Ultraviolet light is especially diagnostic of the state of the atmosphere, so our instrument provides the global context of the whole atmosphere for the local measurements made by the rest of the payload."

MAVEN will be the first mission devoted to understanding the Martian upper atmosphere, its primary goal being to trace the history of how Mars' lost its atmospheric gases over aeons. The data will allow scientists on Earth to determine the current rate of gas escape to space, which should provide adequate clues to working out what kind of events led to the current state of the planet. 

Instrumental suites

The MAVEN spacecraft will carry two other instrument suites. The Particles and Fields Package, built by the University of California at Berkeley Space Science Laboratory with support CU/LASP and NASA Goddard, contains six instruments that will characterize the solar wind and the ionosphere of the planet. The Neutral Gas and Ion Mass Spectrometer, provided by NASA Goddard, will measure the composition and isotopes of neutral ions. The Remote Sensing package will be activated for tests just 21 days after launch and twice more on the journey to Mars for in-flight calibration.

"Three of the big milestones in an instrument builder's life are the day you get selected to fly on a mission, the day you deliver the instrument to the spacecraft to get ready for launch, and the day that it gets where it's going and data starts flowing back from space," says Mark Lankton of CU/LASP. "The Remote Sensing team is really happy to have gotten to the second milestone, and we can hardly wait to reach the third." 

Related Links

Maven Mission Page, 2012

Article by David Bradley

The views represented in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of John Wiley and Sons, Ltd.

Social Links

Share This Links

Bookmark and Share

Microsites

Suppliers Selection
Societies Selection

Banner Ad

Click here to see
all job opportunities

Copyright Information

Interested in separation science? Visit our sister site separationsNOW.com

Copyright © 2017 John Wiley & Sons, Inc. All Rights Reserved