To planetary scientists, the Martian atmosphere presents an intriguing mystery: today it's a thin, cold wisp of carbon dioxide with just one percent the pressure of Earth's atmosphere, but long ago it was thick and warm enough to support lakes and rivers on the Martian surface. How did Mars lose so much of its early atmosphere? Scientists think that the solar wind may be responsible, and NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) spacecraft is designed to find out. The instruments of MAVEN's Particles & Fields package will study the interaction of the solar wind with Mars's upper atmosphere, helping scientists to better understand how Mars became the freeze-dried planet that we see today.
Studying the Solar Wind at Mars Robert Lin, the late director of the Space Sciences Laboratory, discusses how NASA's MAVEN spacecraft will study the interaction of the Martian atmosphere with the solar wind. MAVEN's findings will reveal how Mars lost its early atmosphere, turning it from a warm, wet planet into the cold, dry one that we see today.