This Week in Space! November 18, 2013 – NASA’s MAVEN Mission
Featured Image: Animation of MAVEN’s trajectory around Mars from September 22, 2014 to September 22, 2016. Image courtesy NASA/JPL
This week in 2013, NASA launched the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) mission to explore the Red Planet’s upper atmosphere, ionosphere and interactions with the sun and solar wind.
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Seven weeks before the scheduled launch, in October 2013, a government shutdown suspended work and threatened to delay the launch of the spacecraft. A delay beyond December 7 would have caused MAVEN to miss the launch window as Mars would have moved too far out of alignment.
MAVEN’s instrument suite consists of eight sensors:
- Neutral Gas and Ion Mass Spectrometer
- Langmuir Probe and Waves
- Imaging Ultraviolet Spectrometer
- Solar Wind Electron Analyzer
- Solar Wind Ion Analyzer
- Solar Energetic Particles
- SupraThermal And Thermal Ion Composition
Partnering with the University of Colorado, NASA’s MAVEN mission has four primary scientific objectives:
- Determine the role that loss of volatiles to space from the Martian atmosphere has played through time.
- Determine the current state of the upper atmosphere, ionosphere, and interactions with the solar wind.
- Determine the current rates of escape of neutral gases and ions to space and the processes controlling them.
- Determine the ratios of stable isotopes in the Martian atmosphere.
As of November 2019, MAVEN is still operational and providing valuable scientific data to scientists on Earth.