NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) probe – the first mission ever devoted to understanding the Martian upper atmosphere – has completed 1,000 orbits around the Red Planet, four-and-a-half months into its one-year primary mission.
MAVEN is in its science mapping orbit and has been taking data since the start of its primary mission on November 16 last year.
“The spacecraft and instruments continue to work well and we are building up a picture of the structure and composition of the upper atmosphere of the processes that control its behaviour and of how loss of gas to space occurs,” said Bruce Jakosky, MAVEN&’s principal investigator.
The furthest point in the spacecraft&’s elliptical orbit has been 6,500 km and the closest 130 km above the Martian surface.
“MAVEN is already producing wonderful science results. We are all eager to see what this mission has to teach us about the Martian atmosphere past and present,” added Rich Burns, MAVEN project manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Centre in Greenbelt, Maryland.
The goal of MAVEN is to determine the role that loss of atmospheric gas to space played in changing the Martian climate through time.
MAVEN is studying the entire region from the top of the upper atmosphere all the way down to the lower atmosphere so that the connections between these regions can be understood.
Recently, MAVEN observed two unexpected phenomena in the Martian atmosphere: an unexplained high-altitude dust cloud and aurora that reaches deep into the Martian atmosphere.
MAVEN was launched to Mars on November 18, 2013, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
The spacecraft successfully entered Mars’ orbit September 21, 2014.