February 13, 2015 – The Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics in Boulder reports that the MAVEN spacecraft is now well within the targeted density corridor between 2.0 – 3.5 kg/km³ and is conducting initial deep-dip observations as planned. Today is the first full day of the planned five days at the deep-dip altitudes. All systems are performing nominally and instruments are collecting data.
MAVEN is the first mission devoted to understanding the Martian upper atmosphere. These deep-dip campaigns will provide measurements down to the top of the well-mixed lower Martian atmosphere, giving scientists a full profile of the top of the atmosphere. This region of Mars’ atmosphere, at the boundary between Mars’ upper and lower atmospheres, is about 30 times more dense than the area explored by MAVEN during its primary science mapping operations.
MAVEN’s measurements will allow scientists to characterize the current state of the upper atmosphere and ionosphere, determine the rates of loss of gas to space today, and extrapolate backward in time in order to determine the total loss to space through time.
MAVEN is led by its Principal Investigator Bruce Jakosky, from the University of Colorado at Boulder. The university built two of the eight science instruments and is conducting the mission’s science operations. Lockheed Martin of Littleton, Colorado, built the spacecraft and is performing mission operations. MAVEN was launched on November 18, 2013 atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket.