NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) spacecraft completed 1,000 orbits around the Red Planet on April 6, four-and-a-half months into its one-year primary mission.
MAVEN is in its science mapping orbit and has been taking data since the start of its primary mission on Nov. 16, 2014. The furthest point in the spacecraft’s elliptical orbit has been 6,500 kilometers (4,039 miles) and the closest 130 kilometers (81 miles) above the Martian surface.
“The spacecraft and instruments continue to work well, and we’re building up a picture of the structure and composition of the upper atmosphere, of the processes that control its behavior, and of how loss of gas to space occurs,” said Bruce Jakosky, MAVEN’s principal investigator from the University of Colorado’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics in Boulder.
MAVEN was launched to Mars on November 18, 2013, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The spacecraft successfully entered Mars’ orbit on September 21, 2014.
The Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) mission is the first mission devoted to understanding the Martian upper atmosphere. The goal of MAVEN is to determine the role that loss of atmospheric gas to space played in changing the Martian climate through time. MAVEN is studying the entire region from the top of the upper atmosphere all the way down to the lower atmosphere so that the connections between these regions can be understood.
Recently, MAVEN observed two unexpected phenomena in the Martian atmosphere: an unexplained high-altitude dust cloud and aurora that reaches deep into the Martian atmosphere.
“MAVEN is already producing wonderful science results,” said Rich Burns, MAVEN project manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “We are all eager to see what this mission has to teach us about the Martian atmosphere past and present.”
MAVEN’s principal investigator is based at the University of Colorado’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, Boulder. The university provided two science instruments and leads science operations, as well as education and public outreach, for the mission. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, manages the MAVEN project and provided two science instruments for the mission. Lockheed Martin built the spacecraft and is responsible for mission operations. The University of California at Berkeley’s Space Sciences Laboratory also provided four science instruments for the mission. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, provides navigation and Deep Space Network support, as well as the Electra telecommunications relay hardware and operations.