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This article is about the Mars orbiter. For other uses, see Maven (disambiguation).
Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution
Artist concept of MAVEN spacecraft.jpg
Artist concept of MAVEN
Mission type Mars atmospheric research
Operator NASA
Mission duration 1 year planned[1]
Spacecraft properties
Manufacturer Lockheed Martin
Launch mass 2,454 kg (5,410 lb)
Dry mass 809 kg (1,784 lb)
Payload mass 65 kg (143 lb)
Power 1,135 watts[2]
Start of mission
Launch date November 18, 2013, 18:28 UTC
Rocket Atlas V 401 AV-038
Launch site Cape Canaveral SLC-41
Contractor United Launch Alliance
Orbital parameters
Reference system Areocentric (Mars)
Periareion 150 km (93 mi)
Apoareion 6,200 km (3,900 mi)
Inclination 75 degrees
Period 4.5 hours
Epoch Planned
Mars orbiter
Orbital insertion September 21, 2014 (planned)
MAVEN Mission Logo.png

Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) is a space probe designed to study the Martian atmosphere while orbiting Mars. Mission goals include determining how the Martian atmosphere and water, presumed to have once been substantial, were lost over time.[3][4]

MAVEN was successfully launched aboard an Atlas V launch vehicle at the beginning of the first launch window on November 18, 2013. Following the first engine burn of the Centaur second stage, the vehicle coasted in low-Earth orbit for 27 minutes before a second Centaur burn of five minutes to insert it into a heliocentric Mars transit orbit.

The plan is for MAVEN to be inserted into an areocentric elliptic orbit upon reaching Mars, 6,200 km (3,900 mi) by 150 km (93 mi) above the planet's surface, on September 21, 2014.[5][6] The principal investigator for the spacecraft is Bruce Jakosky of the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado Boulder.


MAVEN Atlas V ignition.

The mission was spawned by NASA's Mars Scout Program, which, although discontinued in 2010, yielded Phoenix, MAVEN, and numerous missions' studies.[7] Mars Scout missions target a cost of less than US$485 million, not including launch services, which cost approximately $187 million.[8]

On September 15, 2008, NASA announced that it had selected MAVEN to be the Mars Scout 2013 mission.[1][9] There was one other finalist and eight other proposals that were competing against MAVEN.

On August 2, 2013, the MAVEN spacecraft arrived at Kennedy Space Center Florida to begin launch preparations.[10] NASA scheduled the launch of MAVEN from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on November 18, 2013, using an Atlas V 401 rocket.[11] The probe is expected to arrive in Mars' orbit in September 2014, at approximately the same time as India's Mars Orbiter Mission.

On October 1, 2013, only seven weeks before launch, a government shutdown caused suspension of work for two days and initially threatened to force a 26-month postponement of the mission. With the spacecraft nominally scheduled to launch on November 18, a delay beyond December 7 would have caused MAVEN to miss the launch window as Mars moves too far out of alignment with the Earth.[12] However, two days later, a public announcement was made that NASA had deemed the 2013 MAVEN launch so essential to ensuring future communication with current NASA assets on Mars—the Opportunity and Curiosity rovers—that emergency funding was authorized to restart spacecraft processing in preparation for an on-time launch.[13][14]


MAVEN's interplanetary journey to Mars.
MAVEN on the launchpad, Fall 2013.

Features on Mars that resemble dry riverbeds and the discovery of minerals that form in the presence of water indicate that Mars once had a dense enough atmosphere and was warm enough for liquid water to flow on the surface. However, that thick atmosphere was somehow lost to space.[15] Scientists suspect that over millions of years, Mars lost 99% of its atmosphere as the planet’s core cooled and its magnetic field decayed, allowing the solar wind to sweep away most of the water and volatile compounds that the atmosphere once contained.[16]

The goal of MAVEN is to determine the history of the loss of atmospheric gases to space, providing answers about Martian climate evolution. By measuring the rate with which the atmosphere is currently escaping to space and gathering enough information about the relevant processes, scientists will be able to infer how the planet's atmosphere evolved over time. The MAVEN mission has four primary scientific objectives:

  1. Determine the role that loss of volatiles to space from the Martian atmosphere has played through time.
  2. Determine the current state of the upper atmosphere, ionosphere, and interactions with the solar wind.
  3. Determine the current rates of escape of neutral gases and ions to space and the processes controlling them.
  4. Determine the ratios of stable isotopes in the Martian atmosphere.[17]

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.[4] MAVEN's measurements will also provide additional scientific context with which to test models for current methane formation in Mars.[18]

Spacecraft overview[edit]

MAVEN is built and tested by Lockheed Martin Space Systems and its design is based on those of the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and Mars Odyssey spacecraft. The orbiter has a cubical shape of about 2.3 meters × 2.3 meters × 2 meters high,[19] with two solar arrays that hold the magnetometers on both ends. The total length is 11.4 meters.[20] NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory provided an Electra telecommunications relay package[21] which has a data transfer rate of up to 10 Mbit/s,[22] but the highly elliptical orbit of the spacecraft will limit its usefulness as a relay for operating landers on the surface.

Scientific instruments[edit]

Solar Wind Electron Analyzer (SWEA) - measures solar wind and ionosphere electrons.

MAVEN will study Mars' upper atmosphere and its interactions with the solar wind. Its instruments will measure characteristics of Mars' atmospheric gases, upper atmosphere, and ionosphere, and the solar wind.[23][24] 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.[25] The University of Colorado Boulder, University of California, Berkeley, and Goddard Space Flight Center each built a suite of instruments for the spacecraft, and they include:[26]

Particles and Field (P&F) Package
Built by the University of California, Berkeley Space Sciences Laboratory.
  • Solar Wind Electron Analyzer (SWEA) - measures solar wind and ionosphere 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 ionosphere properties and wave heating of escaping ions and solar extreme ultraviolet (EUV) input to atmosphere
  • Magnetometer (MAG) - measures interplanetary solar wind and ionosphere magnetic fields[27]
Remote Sensing (RS) Package
Built by the University of Colorado Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics.
  • Imaging Ultraviolet Spectrometer (IUVS) - measures global characteristics of the upper atmosphere and ionosphere
Neutral Gas and Ion Mass Spectrometer (NGIMS) Package
Built by Goddard Space Flight Center

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b NASA Selects 'MAVEN' Mission to Study Mars Atmosphere
  2. ^ 'MAVEN' Mission PowerPoint
  3. ^ Chang, Kenneth (November 15, 2013). "Probe May Help Solve Riddle of Mars’s Missing Air". New York Times. Retrieved November 15, 2013. 
  4. ^ a b New NASA Missions to Investigate How Mars Turned Hostile. By Bill Steigerwald (18 November 2012)
  5. ^ Hansen, Izumi; Zubritsky, Elizabeth (September 17, 2014). "NASA Mars Spacecraft Ready for Sept. 21 Orbit Insertion". NASA. Retrieved September 17, 20-14. 
  6. ^ NASA's MAVEN Spacecraft Makes Final Preparations For Mars
  7. ^ NASA's Scout Program Discontinued.
  8. ^ NASA Awards Launch Services Contract for Maven Mission (October 21, 2010)
  9. ^ "Thumbs Up Given for 2013 NASA Mars Orbiter". October 5, 2010. Retrieved 2010-10-05. 
  10. ^ "NASA Begins Launch Preparations for Next Mars Mission". NASA. 2013-08-05. Retrieved 2013-08-06. 
  11. ^ "NASA Awards Launch Services Contract for MAVEN Mission". SpaceRef. Retrieved 2010-10-21. 
  12. ^ Elliott, Danielle (October 2, 2013). "Government shutdown could delay NASA's Mars MAVEN mission to 2017". CBS News. Retrieved October 3, 2013. 
  13. ^ Jakosky, Bruce (September 20, 2013). "MAVEN reactivation status update". Laboratory of Atmospheric and Space Physics. Retrieved October 4, 2013. 
  14. ^ Kerr, Richard A. (4 October 2013). "Shutdown Won't Prevent NASA's MAVEN Mission From Lifting Off". Science Magazine. Retrieved 2013-10-04. 
  15. ^ MAVEN Mission to Investigate How Sun Steals Martian Atmosphere By Bill Steigerwald (5 October 2010)
  16. ^ "NASA exec checks on Lockheed Martin’s progress on Mars vehicles". Denver Business Journal. October 15, 2012. Retrieved 2012-10-16. 
  17. ^ MAVEN Fact Sheet
  18. ^ "Mars Methane Questions Answered". Science channel. Retrieved 2009-11-14. 
  19. ^ MAVEN Mission Primary Structure Complete. NASA (September 26, 2011).
  20. ^ MAVEN - Facts
  21. ^ "MAVEN: Answers About Mars Climate History". NASA. 2012. Retrieved 2012-10-25. 
  22. ^ "The Electra Proximity Link Payload for Mars Relay Telecommunications and Navigation". NASA. 2003-09-29. Retrieved 2013-01-11. 
  23. ^ "Unique Instrument Devised to Solve Mars' Atmosphere Mystery". iDigital Times. 20 July 2012. Retrieved 2013-07-20. 
  24. ^ CU chosen for $485M Mars exploration project
  25. ^ Mission Timeline. University of Colorado Boulder.
  26. ^ "MAVEN - Instruments". University of Colorado Boulder. 2012. Retrieved 2012-10-25. 
  27. ^ NASA Goddard Delivers Magnetometers for NASA's Next Mission to Mars by Nancy Neal Jones (21 May 2012)

External links[edit]