Features, News, & Events
Early discoveries by NASA’s newest Mars orbiter are starting to reveal key features about the loss of the planet’s atmosphere to space over time.
The findings are among the first returns from the MAVEN mission, which entered its science phase on Nov. 16. The observations reveal a new process by which the solar wind can penetrate deep into a planetary atmosphere. They include the first comprehensive measurements of the composition of Mars’ upper atmosphere and electrically charged ionosphere. The results also offer an unprecedented view of ions as they gain the energy that will lead to their to escape from the atmosphere.(Read more»)
Bruce Jakosky, MAVEN Principal Investigator
The MAVEN spacecraft completed its commissioning activities on November 16 and has formally begun its one-year primary science mission. The start of science is actually a “soft start”, in that the instruments started making science measurements beginning almost as soon as we were in orbit, and some instrument calibration activities will be continuing throughout the mission.
Spacecraft commissioning, in what the MAVEN team called its “transition phase”, included adjusting the orbit to get into its science orbit, deploying the booms that hold a number of the instruments away from the spacecraft, ejecting the Neutral Gas and Ion Mass Spectrometer (NGIMS) instrument cover, turning on and checking out each of the science instruments, and carrying out calibration activities for both the spacecraft and the instruments. This period also included the close approach of Comet Siding Spring, which whizzed by Mars at a distance of only ~135,000 km on October 19.(Read more»)
The newest node in NASA’s Mars telecommunications network—a radio aboard the MAVEN orbiter custom-designed for data links with robots on the surface of Mars—handled a copious 550 megabits during its first relay of real Mars data.
MAVEN’s Electra UHF radio received the transmission from NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover on Nov. 6, using an adaptive data rate as the orbiter passed through the sky over the rover. The data that MAVEN relayed to NASA’s Deep Space Network of large dish antennas on Earth included several images of terrain that Curiosity has been examining at the base of Mars’ Mount Sharp. The test also included relaying data to Curiosity from Earth via MAVEN.(Read more»)
Two NASA and one European spacecraft that obtained the first up-close observations of a comet flyby of Mars on Oct. 19, have gathered new information about the basic properties of the comet’s nucleus and directly detected the effects on the Martian atmosphere.
Data from observations carried out by the MAVEN mission, NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), and a radar instrument on the European Space Agency’s (ESA’s) Mars Express spacecraft have revealed that debris from the comet added a temporary and very strong layer of ions to the ionosphere, the electrically charged layer high above Mars. In these observations, scientists were able to make a direct connection from the input of debris from a specific meteor shower to the formation of this kind of transient layer in response; that is a first on any planet, including Earth.(Read more»)
NASA will host a media teleconference at noon EST on Friday, Nov. 7, to provide initial science observations of comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring’s close flyby of Mars and the impact on the Martian atmosphere. NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), and a radar instrument aboard the European Space […](Read more»)