NASA‘s MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution Mission) has been exploring the upper atmosphere of Mars since September 2104. That means it’s now been in orbit around Mars for 1,000 Earth days. MAVEN is still going strong, and that’s cause for celebration. NASA marked the occasion with a list of MAVEN’s top 10 accomplishments.
Among MAVEN’s most important discoveries is that “the Mars atmosphere has been stripped away by the sun and the solar wind over time, changing the climate from a warmer and wetter environment early in history to the cold, dry climate that we see today.” – nasa.gov. Apparently Mars’ atmosphere is very susceptible to solar winds. Mars’ ionosphere doesn’t divert those solar influences like scientists had expected. And, there is some kind of interaction going on between the upper and lower atmospheres that no one yet fully understands.
MAVEN is still at work, observing and collecting data on a second Martian year. It’s the first space craft dedicated to studying Mars’ upper atmosphere. NASA says “the goal of the mission is to determine the role that loss of atmospheric gas to space played in changing the Martian climate through time.” So far, so good.