NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) probe – the first mission ever devoted to understanding the Martian upper atmosphere – has completed 1,000 orbits around the Red Planet, in its first 200 days of 365-day designated mission.
MAVEN is in its science mapping orbit and has been collecting data since the start of its primary mission on November 16, 2014, said NASA.
“The spacecraft and instruments continue to work well and we are building up a picture of the structure and composition of the upper atmosphere of the processes that control its behaviour and of how loss of gas to space occurs,” said Bruce Jakosky, MAVEN’s principal investigator.
The furthest point in the spacecraft’s elliptical orbit has been 6,500 km and the closest 130 km above the Martian surface.
“MAVEN is already producing wonderful science results. We are all eager to see what this mission has to teach us about the Martian atmosphere past and present,” added Rich Burns, MAVEN project manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Centre in Greenbelt, Maryland.
MAVEN was launched to Mars on November 18, 2013, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The spacecraft successfully entered Mars’ orbit September 21, 2014.
The Mars mission is the first mission devoted to understanding the Martian upper atmosphere, 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’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.