The Atmosphere of Mars and the Volatile Evolution Mission

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Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution Mission (MAVEN)

The red planet Mars has long been a cultural and scientific fascination. People have pondered for decades over the biological potential of the planet and its past. Geological features on Mars resembling dry riverbeds, and the discovery of minerals that form in the presence of water, suggest that Mars once had a thicker atmosphere and was warm enough to allow liquid water to flow on the surface. But phenomenally, the Mars that is seen today is radically different --- barren, lifeless, and dry. Why? In hopes of uncovering the answers to these mysteries, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) will launch its newest mission to Mars, the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution Mission (MAVEN).

Set to launch in November 18, 2013, MAVEN has been given the task of exploring the Martian upper atmosphere, the planet’s ionosphere and its interactions with the sun and solar wind. (NASA) It will be the first mission devoted to this understanding. According to NASA, MAVEN data will be used to determine how the loss of volatile compounds (such as carbon dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, and water) from Mars’s atmosphere to space has influenced the evolution of the planet’s atmosphere and climate. Clearly, the mission is expected to provide insights into liquid water and habitability on the red planet.

The means by which the data harvested by MAVEN will achieve its primary scientific objectives have been determined. Scientists plan to infer how the Martian atmosphere changed over the course of time by measuring the current rate of escape to space of atmospheric gases and understanding the ways by which they do. (Wikipedia) To extract information on Mars, the four hundred eighty-five million dollar MAVEN space probe has been equipped with the latest scientific instruments, processed into three different instrumental suite packages. (NASA Science) One of which includes the Particles and Field Package....
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