MAVEN Orbits Mars

After a 10-month journey, confirmation of successful orbit insertion was received on September 21, 2014 from MAVEN and as a result our exploration of Mars continues.

Artist's concept of Maven in orbit around the planet Mars. Image Credit: NASA/GSFC.

Artist’s concept of Maven in orbit around the planet Mars. Image Credit: NASA/GSFC.

MAVEN will now begin a six-week commissioning phase that includes maneuvering into its final science orbit and testing the instruments and science-mapping commands. MAVEN then will begin its one Earth-year primary mission, taking measurements of the composition, structure and escape of gases in Mars’ upper atmosphere and its interaction with the sun and solar wind.

Space missions take a lot of time and patience. For example this mission has taken 11 years from the original concept for MAVEN to now having a spacecraft in orbit at Mars.

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The primary mission includes five “deep-dip” campaigns, in which MAVEN’s lowest orbit altitude will be lowered from 93 miles  to about 77 miles. These measurements will provide information down to where the upper and lower atmospheres meet, giving scientists a full profile of the upper tier.

The spacecraft’s principal investigator is based at CU/LASP. The university provided two science instruments and leads science operations, as well as education and public outreach, for the mission.

NASA's MAVEN spacecraft recently completed assembly and has started environmental testing. In the Multipurpose Test Facility clean room at Lockheed Martin.

NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft recently completed assembly and has started environmental testing. In the Multipurpose Test Facility clean room at Lockheed Martin.

MAVEN like all space programs today is a joint venture. NASA Goddard Space Flight Center manages the project and also provided two science instruments for the mission. Lockheed Martin built the spacecraft and is responsible for mission operations. The Space Sciences Laboratory at the University of California at Berkeley provided four science instruments for MAVEN. JPL provides navigation and Deep Space Network support, and Electra telecommunications relay hardware and operations. JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Mars Exploration Program for NASA.

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