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The Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution mission (MAVEN) launched on November 18, 2013, and entered orbit around Mars on September 21, 2014. The mission’s goal is to explore the planet’s upper atmosphere, ionosphere, and interactions with the Sun and solar wind. Scientists will use MAVEN data to explore the loss of volatile compounds—such as CO2, N2, and H2O—from the Martian atmosphere to space. Understanding atmospheric loss will give scientists insight into the history of Mars' atmosphere and climate, liquid water, and planetary habitability.

MAVEN Team Blog

MAVEN Status Update: February 11, 2015

February 11

Bruce Jakosky, MAVEN principal investigator at CU-Boulder’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics

MAVEN is about to carry out its first “deep-dip” campaign. This involves lowering the lowest altitude in the orbit from about 150 km above the surface to about 125 km. We do this so that we can measure the properties of that additional 25 km of the upper atmosphere between 150 and 125 km. It doesn’t seem like much, but this lets us go all the way down to the top of what we call the lower atmosphere, and it will let us make the connection then from the top of the upper atmosphere all the way down to the surface.

We’ll use three rocket-motor burns to lower the orbit, spread over three days. We do it gradually so that the spacecraft can “walk in” and we don’t get taken by surprise by anything along the way. Then we’ll stay in the “deep dip” orbit for five days, which covers about 20 orbits around the planet. Finally, we’ll use two maneuvers to “walk” back out and get back to our regular science mapping orbit.

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