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NASA MAVEN Mission to Mars
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. Where did the atmosphere – and the water – go?
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. Where did the atmosphere – and the water – go?

NASA MAVEN's posts

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MAVEN Observes Ups and Downs of Water Escape from Mars

After investigating the upper atmosphere of the Red Planet for a full #Martian year, MAVEN has determined that escaping water does not always go gently into space.

Sophisticated measurements made by a suite of instruments on the #MAVEN spacecraft revealed the ups and downs of hydrogen escape—and therefore water loss. The escape rate peaked when #Mars was at its closest point to the sun and dropped off when the planet was farthest from the sun. The rate of loss varied dramatically overall, with 10 times more hydrogen escaping at the maximum.

Hydrogen in Mars’ upper atmosphere comes from water vapor in the lower atmosphere. An atmospheric water molecule can be broken apart by sunlight, releasing the two hydrogen atoms from the oxygen atom that they had been bound to. Several processes at work in Mars’ upper atmosphere may then act on the hydrogen, leading to its escape.

Michael Chaffin, a planetary scientist at the University of Colorado Boulder’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics who is on the Imaging Ultraviolet Spectrograph (IUVS) team, is presenting some IUVS results today at the joint meeting of the Division for Planetary Sciences and the European Planetary Science Congress in Pasadena, California.

Read the full story:

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MAVEN Gives Unprecedented Ultraviolet View of Mars

Images from MAVEN's Imaging UltraViolet Spectrograph (IUVS) were used to make this movie of rapid cloud formation on #Mars on July 9-10, 2016. The ultraviolet colors of the planet have been rendered in false color, to show what we would see with ultraviolet-sensitive eyes. The movie uses four #MAVEN images to show about 7 hours of Mars rotation during this period, and interleaves simulated views that would be seen between the four images.

Mars' day is similar to Earth’s, so the movie shows just over a quarter day. The left part of the planet in morning and the right side in afternoon. Mars’ prominent volcanoes, topped with white clouds, can be seen moving across the disk. Mars’ tallest volcano, Olympus Mons, appears as a prominent dark region near the top of the images, with a small white cloud at the summit that grows during the day. Olympus Mons appears dark because the volcano rises up above much of the hazy atmosphere which makes the rest of the planet appear lighter. Three more volcanoes appear in a diagonal row, with their cloud cover merging to span up to a thousand miles by the end of the day.

These images are particularly interesting because they show how rapidly and extensively the clouds topping the volcanoes form in the afternoon. Similar processes occur at Earth, with the flow of winds over mountains creating clouds. Afternoon cloud formation is a common occurrence in the American West, especially during the summer.

(Video credit: NASA/University of Colorado-LASP/MAVEN-IUVS)

To read a related story, visit:

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MAVEN Celebrates One Mars Year of Science

Today, #MAVEN has completed one #Mars year of science observations. One Mars year is just under two Earth years.

MAVEN launched on Nov. 18, 2013, and went into orbit around Mars on Sept. 21, 2014. During its time at Mars, MAVEN has answered many questions about the Red Planet.

Read the full story and see a list of some of MAVEN's discoveries and science results, here:

+NASA recently declared that MAVEN had achieved mission success during its primary mission. Mission success means that the spacecraft operated as intended, made the expected science measurements, and achieved its proposed science objectives.

MAVEN has been approved for an additional two-year extended mission that will run through the end of September 2018.

All spacecraft systems and science instruments continue to operate as expected. Data is being collected and measurements are extending to a second Mars year and to a different phase in the eleven-year cycle of solar activity. The science team is implementing additional ways of operating the instruments to expand on the science achieved during the primary mission.

MAVEN’s Imaging UltraViolet Spectrograph (IUVS) obtained this image of Mars on July 13, 2016, when the planet appeared nearly full as viewed from the highest altitudes in the MAVEN orbit. The ultraviolet colors of the planet have been rendered in false color, to show what we would see with ultraviolet-sensitive eyes. (For more information, visit:

(Image credit: NASA Goddard/University of Colorado Boulder/ +Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics)

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MAVEN has now successfully completed two years of operations in #Mars orbit and is continuing on its exemplary journey to explore the #Martian atmosphere.

On September 21, 2014, after a 10-month interplanetary journey of 442 million miles (711 million kilometers), confirmation of successful orbit insertion was received from #MAVEN data observed at the Lockheed Martin operations center. As heard in this video, MAVEN navigation lead, Dave Folta, made the exciting announcement based on tracking data monitored at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory navigation facility.

MAVEN’s #JourneyToMars required a 33-minute engine burn to slow the spacecraft so that it could be captured into Martian orbit. The spacecraft initially entered into a 35-hour capture orbit, but shortly after Mars orbit insertion, a second fuel burn placed the spacecraft into its 4.5-hour period requirement for acquiring data.

(Video credit: NASA/Tom Mason-LASP)

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Tracing Mars Atmospheric Loss through Time: the Three Devils

Why is the surface of Mars no longer habitable?

Sounds like a straightforward question, right? However, those nine words comprise one of the most vexing questions in planetary science. There is now overwhelming evidence that Mars was once a place where liquid water flowed on the surface and, thus, life as we know it could have thrived, at least episodically. Orbiters have identified branching networks of valleys that most likely were carved by rainwater or snowmelt. Rovers have driven through ancient streambeds and found minerals that can only be formed over many years underwater. However, such stable surface water requires an atmospheric surface pressure much higher than today’s ~7 millibars (<1% of Earth’s pressure) to prevent evaporation and cause greenhouse warming.

Where did this ancient atmosphere go? If it had all been absorbed back into the crust, abundant carbonate minerals should exist on or near the surface. However, extensive surveys of Mars from orbit have revealed very little carbonate, not nearly enough to account for all the carbon dioxide that has been lost. The only other explanation: The atmosphere escaped out to space over billions of years. But how did this happen? What physical processes drove the escape? How did they vary over time as solar radiation and the solar wind buffeted ‪#‎Mars‬’ atmosphere, which lacked the protection of a global magnetic field? And, most importantly, how much total atmosphere escaped over Mars’ history?

Read the full blog from Rob Lillis, an Associate Research Physicist at the University of California Berkeley Space Sciences Laboratory, a member of the ‪#‎MAVEN‬ Science team and the deputy lead for the Solar Energetic Particle instrument:

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MAVEN has been orbiting the Red Planet for one Mars year

The Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN mission, the first spacecraft devoted to understanding Mars’ upper atmosphere, has now been in orbit for one Mars year, or 687 Earth days. MAVEN was designed to look at the composition, structure, and behavior of Mars’ upper atmosphere, and to determine how gas is lost from the atmosphere to space.

MAVEN launched from Cape Canaveral in November 2013 and after a ten-month cruise to Mars, the spacecraft entered orbit in September 2014. It took almost two months to get the spacecraft into its mapping orbit, deploy four booms, and test all the science instruments. MAVEN began regular science observations in mid-November 2014.

A notable aspect of being in orbit for one Mars year is that MAVEN has been able to observe through each season the variable energy coming in from the Sun, the response of the upper atmosphere to it, and the resulting escape of gas to space. Observations made throughout the first year in orbit allowed us to quantify each of these.

Data from the spacecraft to-date demonstrate that loss of Mars’ atmosphere to space was a major, if not THE major, process by which the atmosphere and climate changed through time. In that sense, interactions with the solar wind were a major driver of climate change and of the "habitability" of Mars (at least by microbes, at the surface).

In early July, ‪#‎MAVEN‬ was extended for a two-year extended mission that runs through September 2018 and will allow for another full ‪#‎Mars‬ year of observations.

(Image credit: Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics/MAVEN/Anil Rao)

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MAVEN begins Deep Dip campaign #6

The #MAVEN navigation team executed maneuvers on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week that provided a total delta-V (∆V) of 4.0 m/sec. to the spacecraft and lowered the periapsis (lowest altitude) by a total of 24.5 km to 120.5 km above the ‪#‎Martian‬ surface.

This Deep Dip campaign—the 6th of the mission to-date—is located in shadow near midnight on the red planet, and spans both sides of ‪#‎Mars‬’ equator.

(Video credit: NASA/GSFC)

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MAVEN Status and Extended-Mission Planning

MAVEN principal investigator Bruce Jakosky has written a very nice summary of the mission results to-date and offers unique insight into what new observations to expect during the two-year extended mission that runs through September 2018.

The article appears as a "guest blog" on the Planetary Society web site:
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High above the thin ‪#‎Martian‬ skies, the ‪#‎MAVEN‬ spacecraft is carrying out a mission: determine how Mars lost its early atmosphere, and with it, its water.

MAVEN is currently executing the 9th stellar occultation campaign of the mission. These campaigns involve the IUVS instrument ( using the light from a setting star as it passes through Mars' atmosphere to look for subtle changes in its color as it dips through the limb of ‪#‎Mars‬.

Such stellar occultations reveal what Mars’ atmosphere is made of, and how its composition varies with altitude.

MAVEN’s observations are providing scientists with the most detailed picture of the Mars upper atmosphere to date, helping them understand how a once-hospitable world changed into the forbidding desert that we see today.

(Video credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center)

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MAVEN approved for a two-year extended mission

Based upon the 2016 Planetary Mission Senior Review Panel report, NASA this week directed nine extended missions to plan for continued operations through fiscal years 2017 and 2018. Final decisions on mission extensions are contingent on the outcome of the annual budget process.

In addition to ‪#‎MAVEN‬, other missions receiving NASA approval for extensions are: New Horizons, the Dawn mission, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), the Opportunity and Curiosity Mars Rovers, the Mars Odyssey orbiter, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), and NASA’s support for the +European Space Agency, ESA Mars Express mission.

Read the full NASA feature:

The MAVEN team looks forward to two more years of exciting science results from ‪#‎Mars‬' upper atmosphere!
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