Mars Missions and Science

This multimedia gallery assembles and organizes Mars content on the Scientific Visualization Studio website. All of Goddard Space Flight Center's animations, visualizations, videos, and still images relating to GSFC Mars science and missions can be found here! All video clips are available in at least 1280x720 HD unless otherwise noted.

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Mission: MAVEN

The Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) mission, currently in orbit around Mars, is the first mission devoted to understanding the Martian upper atmosphere. Learn more about MAVEN.
  • Targeting Mars
    2014.09.04
    If you want to send a spacecraft from Earth to Mars, how would you get it there? You can't aim straight at the Red Planet, because it's moving around the Sun significantly slower than the Earth. Instead, you'll have to wait for up to 26 months for a launch window, then carefully aim at a moving target. In November, 2013, the controllers of NASA's MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN) spacecraft did just that. When MAVEN arrives, it will be the first spacecraft to study Mars's upper atmosphere in detail, helping scientists understand how Mars changed from a wet planet early in its history to the cold, dry world we see today.
  • Science Orbit Visualization
    2014.09.04
    This visualization shows how the MAVEN spacecraft orbit changes as it progresses from the initial, highly elliptical entry orbit to a somewhat less elliptical orbit and finally to the science orbit.
  • Mars Orbit Insertion Visualization
    2014.09.04
    The Mars Atmosphere and Volitile Evolution mission (MAVEN) spacecraft was launched on a 10 month journey to Mars on November 18, 2013. MAVEN is expected to arrive in Mars orbit on Sept 21, 2014 EDT. MAVEN's mission is to investigate the upper atmosphere of Mars and its interactions with the Sun and solar wind. This will help scientists understand why Mars lost many volitile molecules form its atmosphere such as CO2, N2, and H2O. This visualization shows MAVEN's approach and orbit insertion around Mars. MAVEN's initial orbit is highly elliptical. The tail behind MAVEN changes to red to indicate the period during which thrusters are fired for orbit insertion. A separate visualization shows the transition from the insertion orbit to the more circular science orbit.
  • Cruise Phase Visualization
    2014.09.04
    The Mars Atmosphere and Volitile Evolution mission (MAVEN) spacecraft was launched on a 10 month journey to Mars on November 18, 2013. MAVEN is expected to arrive in Mars orbit on Sept 21, 2014 EDT. MAVEN's mission is to investigate the upper atmosphere of Mars and its interactions with the Sun and solar wind. This will help scientists understand why Mars lost many volitile molecules form its atmosphere such as CO2, N2, and H2O. These visualizations show the path has taken from Earth to Mars. There is a wide view from above the ecliptic plane and a view that slowly tilts down to about 45 degrees above the ecliptic plane.
  • Investigating the Martian Atmosphere
    2014.09.17
    The Martian surface bears ample evidence of flowing water in its youth, from crater lakes and riverbeds to minerals that only form in water. But today Mars is cold and dry, and scientists think that the loss of Mars' water may have been caused by the loss of its early atmosphere. NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN mission, or MAVEN, will be the first spacecraft devoted to studying the Red Planet's upper atmosphere, in an effort to understand how the Martian climate has changed over time.
  • Launch and Deployment Animations
    2014.09.18
    This animation follows the MAVEN spacecraft through launch on an Atlas V rocket from KSC through it's solar panel deployments and ending with MAVEN begining it's journey to MARS.
  • Mars Orbit Insertion Animations
    2014.09.18
    These animations depict MAVEN's arrival at Mars on September 21, 2014, and the ensuing science instrument deployments. The animations begin with MAVEN's orbital insertion engine burn near the Martian north pole. The deployments include MAVEN's LPW, SWEA and APP instruments.
  • Principal Investigator and Project Manager
    2014.09.18
    Principal Investigator Bruce Jakosky and Project Manager David F. Mitchell discuss NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN mission, or MAVEN, which will study the upper atmosphere of Mars.
  • Voices of MAVEN
    2014.11.06
    On September 21, 2014, NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN mission, or MAVEN, went into orbit around the Red Planet. Its goal: to understand how a changing atmosphere transformed Mars from a warm, wet environment in its youth to the desert world that we see today. Building such a mission and sending it to Mars is a hugely complex task, requiring the close coordination of hundreds of individuals around the country. In this video, several of the team members who made the mission possible share their experiences of working on MAVEN.
  • Goddard Goes to Mars
    2014.06.25
    The Martian climate remains one of the solar system's biggest mysteries: although cold and dry today, myriad surface features on Mars carved by flowing water attest to a much warmer, wetter past. What caused this dramatic transition? Scientists think that climate change on Mars may be due to solar wind erosion of the early atmosphere, and NASA's MAVEN mission will test this hypothesis. Project Manager David F. Mitchell discusses MAVEN and the Goddard Space Flight Center's role in sending it to the Red Planet.
  • Nov. 13, 2013 Live Shots
    2013.11.13
    Broll and interview with Dr. Jim Garvin previewing the upcoming launch of NASA's newest mission to Mars, the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evoution or MAVEN set to launch Monday, Nov. 18th.
  • Mission Overview with Principal Investigator
    2013.11.08
    Ancient riverbeds, crater lakes and flood channels all attest to Mars's warm, watery past. So how did the Red Planet evolve from a once hospitable world into the cold, dry desert that we see today? One possibility is that Mars lost its early atmosphere, allowing its water to escape into space, and NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) spacecraft will investigate just that. On September 25, 2013, MAVEN Principal Investigator Bruce Jakosky delivered a presentation at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, discussing NASA's next mission to Mars. An edited version appears below.
  • Mars Transition Wet to Dry
    2013.11.13
    Billions of years ago when the Red Planet was young, it appears to have had a thick atmosphere that was warm enough to support oceans of liquid water – a critical ingredient for life. The animation shows how the surface of Mars might have appeared during this ancient clement period, beginning with a flyover of a Martian lake. The artist's concept is based on evidence that Mars was once very different. Rapidly moving clouds suggest the passage of time, and the shift from a warm and wet to a cold and dry climate is shown as the animation progresses. The lakes dry up, while the atmosphere gradually transitions from Earthlike blue skies to the dusty pink and tan hues seen on Mars today.
  • MAVEN Beauty Passes and Orbit Animations
    2012.07.09
    This collection contains animations showing the MAVEN spacecraft in orbit around Mars, as well as MAVEN's overall orbit trajectory.
  • Mars Climate History
    2012.07.15
    These animations show various conceptual animations depicting a transition from a "Wet" Mars that may have existed long ago to the "Dry" Mars we see today.
  • Mars Atmospheric Loss
    List
    The atmosphere of Mars is just one percent the density Earth's - far too thin to retain liquid water. Despite this, the Martian surface bears strong evidence of a watery past, implying that ancient Mars had a thicker, warmer atmosphere. Scientists think that the loss of Mars' water may have been caused by the loss of its early atmosphere, due to complex interactions with the Sun and the solar wind.
  • The How-To Guide to Satellites
    List
    So, you want to build a satellite? And you want to sent it to Mars? Time to roll up your sleeves and sharpen your number two pencils - building an interplanetary spacecraft is a bit more complicated than putting together that office chair you bought last Thursday.
  • MAVEN Instrument Profiles
    List
    Members of the MAVEN science team talk about the instruments that they have designed to figure out what happened to the early Martian atmosphere. The Particles and Fields package is designed to study the interaction of the solar wind with the upper atmosphere of Mars. The Neutral Gas and Ion Mass Spectrometer (NGIMS) package studies ionized gas and neutral molecules, and looks at the ratio of heavy to light isotopes of various gases. The Imaging Ultraviolet Spectrograph (IUVS) takes pictures and spectra of Mars in UV light, and the magnetometer (MAG) studies the planet's patchwork magnetic field.
  • MAVEN Employee Profiles (Spanish)
    2012.05.30
    Spanish-language profile videos of MAVEN project managers Sandra Cauffman and Carlos Gomez-Rosa.
  • MAVEN Spacecraft and Instrument Footage
    2012.07.30
    Below are broadcast-quality b-roll clips of integration, testing, and fabrication of the MAVEN spacecraft and its instruments.

Mission: SAM

The Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) suite of instruments in the Mars Science Laboratory (Curiosity) rover is designed to study the present and past habitability of Mars by exploring molecular and elemental chemistry relevant to life.
  • SAM Organics and Methane Findings
    2014.12.16
    There’s big news coming out of the Sample Analysis at Mars instrument suite (SAM) on NASA’s Curiosity rover. For the first time, organic matter has definitively been detected on Mars. In addition to finding organic compounds in rocks, SAM has also detected sharp increases and decreases in methane levels in the atmosphere. MSL participating scientist, Danny Glavin, explains these findings and what they tell us about our search for life on the Red Planet.
  • SAM Sings Happy Birthday
    2013.08.05
    On August 5, 2012 (PDT), NASA's Curiosity rover touched down on the Red Planet. Aboard was the Sample Analysis at Mars instrument, or SAM, the most sophisticated chemistry lab ever sent to another planet. Now, on the first anniversary of the landing, engineers at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center are using SAM to "sing" Happy Birthday to Curiosity.
  • SAM Edited Resource Collection
    2012.06.29
    This video is a collection of various SAM assets, including sections of the Mars Science Laboratory (Curiosity) rover animation and Kennedy Space Center footage of MSL assembly and payload fairing.
  • SAM B-Roll
    2012.06.29
    Below are broadcast-quality b-roll clips of integration, testing, and fabrication of instruments on board the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) suite of instruments.
  • SAM Interviews
    2012.06.29
    This section contains interviews with various Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) personnel, including Paul Mahaffy, SAM Principal Investigator.
  • SAM Overview
    2012.06.29
    This video gives a short overview of the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) suite of instruments inside the Curiosity Rover.
  • SAM Employee Profiles
    2012.06.29
    These videos give an inside perspective on what it's like to work on the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) suite of instruments! Learn more about the people who work on SAM here.
  • SAM Teaser Trailer
    2012.06.29
    This video is a short teaser trailer for the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument suite installed in the Mars Science Laboratory (Curiosity) rover.
  • The Mars Chamber
    2012.07.18
    The Mars chamber is a box—about the size of a refrigerator—that re-creates the temperatures, pressures, and atmosphere of the Martian surface, essentially creating a Mars environment on Earth!

    Scientists and engineers use this chamber to test experiments on the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument suite—a fully functioning chemistry lab about the Curiosity Mars rover.

    By re-creating Mars on Earth and using an exact duplicate of SAM, scientists can "pre-run" experiments on SAM to make sure everything will work properly on the Mars rover. Learn more about the Mars chamber by watching this video!

  • Mass Spectrometry 101
    2010.07.22
    What do you do if you have a sample from another planet, and you want to find out if it contains a certain molecule...maybe even one that will reveal that the planet can sustain life? When scientists face a situation like this, they employ an amazing tool: the mass spectrometer. It does the hard work of separating out materials, allowing scientists to look very closely at a sample and see what's inside. Learn more about this tool in the video and animation below!

Science

These pages contain animations, visualizations, videos, and still images related to Mars science.
  • Mars' Ancient Ocean
    2015.03.05
    For decades, planetary scientists have suspected that ancient Mars was a much warmer, wetter environment than it is today, but estimates of just how much water Mars has lost since its formation vary widely. Now, new isotopic measurements by researchers at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center reveal that an ocean once covered approximately twenty percent of the Martian surface. This new picture of early Mars is considerably wetter than many previous estimates, raising the odds for the ancient habitability of the Red Planet.
  • Comet Siding Spring and Mars Fleet
    2014.10.09
    This visualization shows NASA’s fleet of Mars orbiters, landers, and rovers during the planet’s close encounter with Comet Siding Spring. C/2013 A1, better known as Comet Siding Spring, will make a remarkably close pass of Mars on October 19, 2014. At closest approach, Comet Siding Spring will come within 82,000 miles of the Red Planet – just one-third of the distance from the Earth to the Moon. During the flyby, NASA will position its Mars fleet both to protect it from comet dust, and to make observations of the comet and its effects on the upper atmosphere of Mars.
  • Comet Siding Spring Narrated Video
    2014.10.17
    On October 19, Comet Siding Spring will pass within 88,000 miles of Mars – just one third of the distance from the Earth to the Moon! Traveling at 33 miles per second and weighing as much as a small mountain, the comet hails from the outer fringes of our solar system, originating in a region of icy debris known as the Oort cloud. Comets from the Oort cloud are both ancient and rare. Since this is Comet Siding Spring’s first trip through the inner solar system, scientists are excited to learn more about its composition and the effects of its gas and dust on the Mars upper atmosphere. NASA will be watching closely before, during, and after the flyby with its entire fleet of Mars orbiters and rovers, along with the Hubble Space Telescope and dozens of instruments on Earth. The encounter is certain to teach us more about Oort cloud comets, the Martian atmosphere, and the solar system’s earliest ingredients.
  • Comet Siding Spring Beauty Shots
    2014.10.14
    On October 19, 2014, Mars will receive a first-time visitor from the outer fringes of the solar system. C/2013 A1, better known as Comet Siding Spring, has been traveling toward the inner solar system for millions of years, and will just miss Mars by a distance of 88,000 miles on October 19 (roughly one-third of the distance from the Earth to the Moon). These animations depict the flyby as seen from orbit above Mars, and as seen from the Martian surface. The blue portion of Comet Siding Spring's tail is composed of ionized gas swept away from the Sun by the solar wind. The gray portion is composed of heavier dust particles, which are moving at 33 miles per second relative to Mars.
  • The Mystery of Martian Methane
    2009.01.15
    Mike Mumma and his team of researchers at Goddard Space Flight Center have made the first definitive observations of methane in the atmosphere of Mars. The evidence of methane plumes only during certain seasons and the chemical processes that could lead to its possible sources both raise intriguing questions for future study.

    For complete transcript, click here.

  • Methane Plume on Mars
    2009.01.15
    The first definitive detection of methane in the atmosphere of Mars indicates the planet is alive in the sense that it still has geologic activity powered by heat from its interior, according to a team of NASA and university scientists.

    The team used spectrometer instruments attached to several telescopes to detect plumes of methane that were emitted from specific sites during the warmer seasons - spring and summer.

    Though nothing conclusive can yet be determined, it is possible that the detected methane was either produced by geologic processes such as the oxidation of iron (serpentinization) or by microscopic Martian life below the planet's surface. The methane released today could be produced currently, or it could be ancient methane trapped in ice 'cages' called clathrates or as gas below a sub-surface ice layer.

  • Biological Creation of Methane
    2009.01.15
    Conceptual animation depicting how biological organisms (shown as oval-shaped translucent structures) living beneath the surface of Mars may have produced methane (shown as blue spheres).
  • Geochemical Creation of Methane
    2009.01.15
    Conceptual animation depicting how geochemical processes during the course of Mars' history may have produced the methane plumes now seen in Mars' atmosphere. Here, through a process called serpentinization, methane is generated as part of a reaction involving the conversion of liquid water (seen seeping into the planet's crust), iron oxide, and carbon dioxide energized by the planet's internal heat into serpentine minerals.
  • Radiolytic Production of Methane by Microbial Life
    2009.01.15
    Animation depicting how 'extreme microbes' on Earth produce methane.
  • Mars Methane Spectroscopy
    2009.01.15
    Conceptual animation demonstrating the process of spectroscopy. The first animation demonstrates the general concept of visible-light spectroscopy by which white light is separated into its component wavelengths (colors) using a prism. The second animation demonstrates how this idea is applied to the discovery of methane in Mars' atmosphere. Because it absorbs specific wavelengths of electromagnetic energy, methane has a 'fingerprint' that can be seen as missing lines on the resulting spectograph.
  • Mars - Standard Definition Materials
    Gallery
    Mars has long been a focus of NASA missions and NASA research. This gallery will direct you to visualizations of NASA Mars data, missions, and science.