November 20, 2014 – NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft went into safehold mode on Wednesday, November 19. The spacecraft goes into this state autonomously, when it detects a problem with its operations, to ensure that it stays safe and in contact with Earth.
This particular safehold was triggered by a timing conflict between commands. This is part of learning how to operate the spacecraft in a new environment, as this is the first time the spacecraft has been in its full science-operations scenario. The instruments have all been turned off and are safe, the spacecraft is healthy and in high-data-rate contact with Earth.
The MAVEN spacecraft completed its commissioning activities on November 16 and had formally begun its one-year primary science mission. The spacecraft operations team is currently developing the schedule to return MAVEN to full science operations.
The MAVEN spacecraft, built by Lockheed Martin, successfully entered Mars’ orbit on September 21. The spacecraft’s flight operations are controlled by a team at Lockheed Martin’s Mission Support Area near Denver, Colorado. MAVEN’s principal investigator, Bruce Jakosky, is based at The University of Colorado’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP).
MAVEN’s goal is to explore Mars’ upper atmosphere, ionosphere, and interactions with the sun and solar wind. Scientists will use MAVEN data to determine how much gas from the atmosphere has been lost to space throughout the planet’s history. Understanding atmospheric loss will give scientists insight into the history of Mars’ atmosphere and climate and help determine how this once-habitable planet became so desolate over time.