MAVEN Begins Primary Science Mission

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An artists representation of the MAVEN spacecraft with present day Mars in front of what the Red Planet may have looked like billions of years ago. (Image credit: NASA/GSFC/LASP)

–Bruce Jakosky, MAVEN Principal Investigator

The ‪#‎MAVEN‬ spacecraft completed its commissioning activities on November 16 and has formally begun its one-year primary science mission. The start of science is actually a “soft start”, in that the instruments started making science measurements beginning almost as soon as we were in orbit, and some instrument calibration activities will be continuing throughout the mission.

Spacecraft commissioning, in what the MAVEN team called its “transition phase”, included adjusting the orbit to get into its science orbit, deploying the booms that hold a number of the instruments away from the spacecraft, ejecting the Neutral Gas and Ion Mass Spectrometer (NGIMS) instrument cover, turning on and checking out each of the science instruments, and carrying out calibration activities for both the spacecraft and the instruments. This period also included the close approach of Comet Siding Spring, which whizzed by ‪#‎Mars‬ at a distance of only ~135,000 km on October 19.

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MAVEN Instruments

MAVEN’s payload of scientific instruments is annotated in this artist’s representation of the NASA Mars orbiter. (Image credit: NASA/GSFC)