June 5, 2016

Will the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN probe become a maven on the topic of Mars?

Only time will tell but NASA has a track record when it comes to delivering explorers to our red neighbor in one piece. If all goes well, MAVEN will help us determine how Mars lost almost all of its atmosphere and water. Humans seem to be rather fond of water and oxygen so this isn't just interesting from a scientific point of view, it might also help us safeguard our own planet to make sure that such a runaway process doesn't happen here.

MAVEN will perform measurements from a highly elliptical orbit over a period of one Earth year, with five "deep dips" at 150 km (93 mi) minimum altitude to sample the upper atmosphere. The MAVEN spacecraft will carry three instrument suites, and they include:

Particles and Field (P&F) Package
> Solar Wind Electron Analyzer (SWEA) - measures solar wind and ionospheric electrons
> Solar Wind Ion Analyzer (SWIA) - measures solar wind and magnetosheath ion density and velocity
> SupraThermal And Thermal Ion Composition (STATIC) - measures thermal ions to moderate-energy escaping ions
> Solar Energetic Particle (SEP) - determines the impact of SEPs on the upper atmosphere
> Langmuir Probe and Waves (LPW) - determines ionospheric properties and wave heating of escaping ions and solar extreme ultraviolet (EUV) input to atmosphere
> Magnetometer (MAG) - measures interplanetary solar wind and ionospheric magnetic fields

Remote Sensing (RS) Package
> Imaging Ultraviolet Spectrometer (IUVS) - measures global characteristics of the upper atmosphere and ionosphere
> Neutral Gas and Ion Mass Spectrometer (NGIMS) Package - measures the composition and isotopes of neutral gases and ions

MAVEN is expected to reach Mars in September 2014. By then, the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument suite on board the Curiosity rover will have made similar surface measurements from Gale crater, which will help guide the interpretation of MAVEN's upper atmosphere measurements. MAVEN's measurements will also provide additional scientific context with which to test models for current methane formation in Mars.

Launch T-minus: 1h 25m
Watch MAVEN take off live here; http://www.ustream.tv/nasahdtv

Looking for more info on Mars? http://wondreal.blogspot.be/2016/06/mars-red-planet.html

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