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A new Mars orbiter just entered the upper atmosphere of the Red Planet, and we were watching! Sunday evening, September 21st, we celebrated the arrival of MAVEN, the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution Mission, as the Planetary Society returned to the Crawford Family Forum for another Planetary Radio Live. This somewhat under-appreciated probe will help us understand how a once warm and wet world lost most of its water and turned into the cold, barren landscape it is today.
MAVEN is reaching Mars in time to join the investigation of comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring, which will brush past the planet in October. According to NASA, MAVEN will study gases coming off the comet's nucleus into its coma as it is warmed by the sun. MAVEN also will look for effects the comet flyby may have on the planet’s upper atmosphere and observe the comet as it travels through the solar wind.
Joining host Mat Kaplan in the Forum was MAVEN scientist Richard Zurek Ph.D, Planetary Society Senior Editor Emily Lakdawalla, and the Society’s Director of Science and Technology, Dr. Bruce Betts. Planetary Society CEO Bill Nye the Science Guy made a live, virtual appearance from New York. As the seconds counted down to the critical rocket burn required to place MAVEN into orbit around Mars, we saw it all happen as we tuned into the NASA TV broadcast on the Forum big screen.
Mat Kaplan: host and producer, Planetary Radio for The Planetary Society
Bruce Betts: Director of Science and Technology, The Planetary Society
Emily Lakdawalla: Senior Editor and Planetary Evangelist, The Planetary Society
Bill Nye the Science Guy: CEO, The Planetary Society
Richard Zurek: Chief Scientist for the Mars Program Office and Project Scientist for the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL)
More about the MAVEN mission from nasa.gov:
The Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) mission was launched on November 18, 2013. It will arrive at Mars on September 21, 2014, to explore the planet’s upper atmosphere, ionosphere and interactions with the sun and solar wind. Scientists will use MAVEN data to determine the role that loss of volatile compounds—such as carbon dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, and water—from Mars' atmosphere to space has played through time, giving insight into the history of Mars' atmosphere and climate, liquid water, and planetary habitability. The MAVEN Principal Investigator is Dr. Bruce Jakosky of the University of Colorado’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (CU/LASP), and the project is managed by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.
MAVEN carries three instrument suites. The Particles and Fields Package, built by the University of California at Berkeley with support from CU/LASP and Goddard Space Flight Center, contains six instruments that will characterize the solar wind and the ionosphere of the planet. The Remote Sensing Package, built by CU/LASP, will determine global characteristics of the upper atmosphere and ionosphere. The Neutral Gas and Ion Mass Spectrometer, provided by Goddard Space Flight Center, will measure the composition and isotopes of neutral ions. MAVEN also carries a government-furnished Electra UHF radio to provide back-up data relay capability for the rovers on Mars' surface. Lockheed Martin, based in Littleton, Colorado, built the MAVEN spacecraft and provides mission operations. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory is providing navigation services, and CU/LASP conducts science operations and data distribution.
This event was held as part of the 2014 AxS Festival, a two-week city-wide festival that explores the nexus of science and the arts.