MAVEN spacecraft with instruments. Credits: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

MAVEN spacecraft with instruments. Credits: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

Hello Earthlings!

My apologies for not getting this posted on Monday- our planetary simulation lab is getting some new toys and "all hands on deck" for the past few days! One of the Mars chambers is finally getting to work after being down for maintenance, the other Mars chamber is getting a new refrigeration system, the Titan and Pluto chambers are getting a Raman spectrometer up and running soon. Never a dull moment!

So let's chat about MAVEN...

The Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) spacecraft from NASA specifically studies the behavior of the atmosphere, magnetic field, and plasma interactions of Mars. It has 8 small instruments for collecting data, each with its own purpose for atmospheric or magnetic properties. 

Launched in November 2013, it entered into Martian atmosphere September 2014. What it recently discovered shocked the MAVEN team members...the Martian atmosphere was "lost" to space. That is, the amount of solar radiation and wind was too much over time for an already weak atmosphere. What may have been a warmer and organism-rich planet is now a colder desert wasteland. 

The press release for this discovery was on 3/30/2017: https://mars.nasa.gov/news/2017/nasas-maven-reveals-most-of-mars-atmosphere-was-lost-to-space

Approximate timescale of atmospheric loss. Credits: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

Approximate timescale of atmospheric loss. Credits: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

More work is being done to combine geologic and mineralogic efforts for finding H2O-rich mineral locations or river-channel-like geologic formations. Studying these areas could support the amount of atmosphere loss overtime and time scales. 

Next time- minerals in lunar rocks!