NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) is the first mission devoted to understanding the Martian upper atmosphere. Today Mars is cold and dry, but ancient Mars was warm, wet, and possibly hospitable to life. Scientists think that the loss of Mars' early atmosphere caused the planet to dry up, and MAVEN is testing this hypothesis by observing present-day interactions of the Martian atmosphere with the solar wind. Learn more about MAVEN from NASA and the University of Colorado Boulder.

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  • Mars Patchy Proton Aurora (Graphic)
    NASA’s MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution) mission and the United Arab Emirates’ EMM (Emirates Mars Mission) have released joint observations of dynamic proton aurora events at Mars. Remote auroral observations by EMM paired with in-situ plasma observations made by MAVEN open new avenues for understanding the Martian atmosphere.
  • Dust Storms Accelerate Water Loss (Infographic)
    Scientists using an instrument aboard NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN, or MAVEN, spacecraft have discovered that water vapor near the surface of the Red Planet is lofted higher into the atmosphere than anyone expected was possible. There, it is easily destroyed by electrically charged gas particles, or ions, and lost to space. The warm summer temperatures and strong winds associated with dust storms help water vapor reach the uppermost parts of the atmosphere, where it can easily be broken into its constituent oxygen and hydrogen, which then escape to space. Previously, scientists thought that water vapor was trapped close to the Martian surface like it is on Earth.
  • First Map of Mars Electric Currents
    Unlike Earth, Mars lacks a protective global magnetic field to shield its upper atmosphere from the solar wind. Instead, the solar wind crashes into the upper atmosphere and its magnetic field lines drape around the planet. This creates an induced magnetosphere that tugs on charged particles in the Mars upper atmosphere, generating electric currents. Now, MAVEN’s detailed measurements of the magnetic environment surrounding Mars have revealed the shape of these electric currents for the first time.
  • Mars Electric Current Systems: Visualizations
    NASA scientists used magnetic field measurements from the Mars Atmosphere and Volatiles Evolution (MAVEN) orbiter to make the first quantitative global map of the induced currents that shape the Martian induced magnetosphere. Mapping the currents reveals how the solar wind's energy transfers into the induced magnetosphere where it powers escape of the Martian atmosphere.
  • Mars and Solar Wind Simulation
    This visualization simulates charged particles (ions) in the Mars upper atmosphere interacting with the solar wind and escaping to space. Red and yellow particles represent high-velocity ions that escape the planet, while greens and blues represent low-velocity ions that remain bound to Mars. Time is frozen in the visualization, and a camera move reveals the structure of the system.
  • MAVEN Observes Solar Particle Velocities
    In this visualization, a series of MAVEN’s orbits are shown from March 8-9, 2015. During these orbits, MAVEN’s particles and fields instruments observed the speed and direction of charged particles in the solar wind flowing past Mars – represented as yellow spikes pointing from the planet’s dayside toward its nightside. MAVEN’s magnetometers also recorded variations in the strength and direction of the solar wind’s magnetic field – represented as green spikes at an angle to the charged particle velocities.
  • Mars Sporadic E Layer: Produced Video
    The MAVEN spacecraft has discovered “layers” and “rifts” in the electrically-charged part of the upper atmosphere (the ionosphere) of Mars. This phenomenon, called "sporadic E," is very common at Earth and causes unpredictable disruptions to radio communications. However, we do not fully understand it because it forms at altitudes that are difficult to explore at Earth. The unexpected discovery by MAVEN shows that Mars is a unique laboratory to explore and better understand this highly disruptive phenomenon.
  • Mars Sporadic E Layer: Animations
    This resource page contains artist concept animations featured in the Mars Sporadic E Layer produced video.
  • Mars Wind Currents: Produced Video
    MAVEN is the first spacecraft specifically designed to study the Mars upper atmosphere, in order to better understand the evolution of its climate. Now, scientists have analyzed several years of data from MAVEN’s NGIMS instrument and produced the first map of wind currents in the Martian thermosphere (a layer of the upper atmosphere). This map led to an unexpected and surprising discovery – disturbances in high-altitude wind currents on Mars are caused by terrain features such as mountains and valleys on the planet’s surface.
  • Mars Wind Currents: Visualizations
    This resource page contains data visualizations featured in the Mars Wind Currents produced video.
  • Mars Wind Currents: Animations
    This resource page contains artist concept animations featured in the Mars Wind Currents produced video.
  • MAVEN Aerobraking (Graphic)
    In February 2019, MAVEN began an aerobraking campaign to tighten its orbit around Mars. When the campaign finishes in late April, MAVEN's furthest distance from the planet will be reduced by about 1,700 kilometers and its orbital period will be shortened by an hour. The aerobraking campaign will improve MAVEN's ability to relay data from rovers on the surface of Mars, while also continuing to carry out its science objectives by studying the Mars upper atmosphere.
  • Terraforming the Martian Atmosphere (Infographic)
    One of the challenges of terraforming Mars is to increase its atmospheric pressure, which is currently less than 1% that of Earth. The Martian polar caps, minerals, and soil could all provide sources of carbon dioxide and water to thicken the atmosphere. Unfortunately, a new study by the MAVEN science team finds that processing all sources available on Mars would only increase the pressure to about 7% that of Earth, far short of what is needed.
  • Mars Evolution from Wet to Dry
    These animations were originally created to accompany Invisible Mars, a Science-on-a-Sphere live presentation for the MAVEN mission. The animations have been rendered for use in other formats, including the NASA Hyperwall.
  • Mars Proton Aurora
    On Earth, the northern and southern lights occur when the solar wind (electrically charged particles from the Sun) follow our planet's geomagnetic field lines to the poles and collide with the upper atmosphere. Mars lacks a global magnetic field, but solar wind protons can still cause ultraviolet aurorae on Mars thanks to a process called "charge exchange."
  • 2017 AGU Habitability Press Conference
    The search for life beyond Earth is riding a surge of creativity and innovation. Following a gold rush of exoplanet discovery over the past two decades, it is time to tackle the next step: determining which of the known exoplanets are proper candidates for life. Scientists from NASA and two universities presented new results dedicated to this task at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union on Dec. 13, 2017, in New Orleans, Louisiana. University of Colorado Boulder scientist David Brain discussed the evolution of the Martian atmosphere as an exoplanet analogue, using findings from the MAVEN mission.
  • Mars Argon Lost to Space (Infographic)
    Solar wind and radiation are responsible for stripping the Martian atmosphere, according to results from NASA's MAVEN spacecraft. By measuring light and heavy isotopes of argon in the Martian atmosphere, scientists have determined that a process called sputtering removed 65% of Mars' argon to space, along with the majority of other gases like carbon dioxide. Over billions of years, this transformed Mars from a hospitable environment into the cold, dry planet that we see today. Learn more about the finding from this print-resolution infographic.
  • Ultraviolet Mars Reveals Cloud Formation
    Ultraviolet images from MAVEN's IUVS instrument were used to make a time-lapse movie of rapid cloud formation on Mars on July 9-10, 2016.
  • Mars Evolution for Planetariums
    Scientists think that billions of years ago, the atmosphere of Mars was much denser and warm enough to support rivers, lakes, and perhaps even oceans of water. As the planet cooled and lost its global magnetic field, the solar wind and solar storms eroded away to space a significant amount of the planet’s atmosphere and water, turning Mars into the cold, arid desert that we see today. This animation depicts Mars transitioning from wet to dry. It is formatted in a square aspect ratio for planetariums and available in 4k resolution.
  • The Mars Fleet
    A fleet of robotic spacecraft is exploring the Red Planet, sending back an ever-growing flood of data. While rovers like Curiosity blaze tracks through the fine Martian soil, orbiters like MAVEN and MRO circle high overhead, gazing down at the planet's atmosphere and surface and relaying ground-based data back to Earth. The Mars fleet is providing mission controllers at NASA, the European Space Agency, and the Indian Space Research Organisation with a remote presence on Mars.
  • Solar Wind Strips Martian Atmosphere
    Unlike Earth, Mars lacks a global magnetic field to deflect the stream of charged particles continuously blowing off the Sun. Instead, the solar wind crashes into the Mars upper atmosphere and can accelerate ions into space. Now, for the first time, NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft has observed this process in action – by measuring the speed and direction of ions escaping from Mars.
  • Solar Wind and Mars Bow Shock
    Mars lacks a global magnetic field to deflect the incoming solar wind, so charged particles from the Sun slam into the Mars upper atmosphere and pile up in a bow shock ahead of the planet. The inner boundary of this bow shock reaches the Mars ionosphere, and can accelerate ions to escape velocities. The visualizations on this page compare a simulated Mars bow shock with data taken from the MAVEN spacecraft.
  • Science Results Live Shot
    On Thursday, November 5, 2015, NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution mission (MAVEN) released its first results showing how Mars is losing its atmosphere to space. These results will help scientists understand why Mars' climate has changed, and why the planet has evolved from being warm and wet to cold and dry. NASA scientists were available on Friday, November 6 to discuss these results from the Goddard television studio.
  • Mapping Mars' Upper Atmosphere
    High above the thin Martian skies, NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft is carrying out a mission: determine how Mars lost its early atmosphere, and with it, its water. Principal Investigator Bruce Jakosky discusses MAVEN's early science observations and its stellar occultation campaigns.
  • Stellar Occultations
    While previous orbiters have peered down at the Martian surface, MAVEN is spending part of its time gazing at the stars, observing the Martian atmosphere through a series of stellar occultations.
  • Mars Orbital Coverage
    MAVEN’s orbit gives it the most comprehensive view of the Martian atmosphere of any spacecraft to date. The combination of MAVEN’s north-to-south orbit and Mars’ eastward rotation provides a complete picture of the Martian atmosphere.
  • Deep Dip Orbit
    MAVEN is on a more elliptical orbit than many previous spacecraft, allowing it to study the interaction of the Martian atmosphere with the solar wind at varying altitudes. During the periodic "deep dip" campaigns, MAVEN's orbit is lowered to only 125 km at closest approach, dipping into the Mars upper atmosphere to study it in situ.
  • Comet Siding Spring Narrated Video
    On October 19, 2014, Comet Siding Spring passed 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 hailed from the outer fringes of our solar system, originating in a region of icy debris known as the Oort cloud. NASA observed this historic close encounter with a fleet of rovers and orbiters, including MAVEN, and learned more about the evolution of the solar system thanks to Mars' icy visitor.
  • Comet Siding Spring Animations and MAVEN
    On October 19, 2014, Mars received a first-time visitor from the outer fringes of the solar system. C/2013 A1, better known as Comet Siding Spring, had been traveling toward the inner solar system for millions of years, and just missed Mars by a distance of 88,000 miles (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.
  • Comet Siding Spring and Mars Fleet
    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, made a remarkably close pass of Mars on October 19, 2014. At closest approach, Comet Siding Spring came within 82,000 miles of the Red Planet – just one-third of the distance from the Earth to the Moon. During the flyby, NASA positioned its orbiters behind Mars to protect them from comet dust.
  • Comet Siding Spring Mars Flyby
    These visualizations show MAVEN and Comet Siding Spring making their way through the solar system to a close encounter near Mars. Two wide angle views are included. The first one maintains a fixed camera above the ecliptic plane of the solar system. The second one moves the camera in a bit closer and more parallel with the ecliptic plane as the comet and MAVEN encounter the Martian region.
  • Voices of MAVEN
    On September 21, 2014 EDT, 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.
  • Mars Orbit Insertion Highlights
    The Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution spacecraft arrived at Mars on September 21, 2014. NASA-TV broadcast a 70-minute live program as MAVEN executed a dramatic engine burn to achieve orbit around Mars. This page contains highlights from the MAVEN Mars Orbit Insertion broadcast.
  • Science Orbit Visualization
    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 Animations
    These animations depict MAVEN's arrival at Mars 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.
  • Mars Orbit Insertion Visualization
    The Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution spacecraft was launched on a ten-month journey to Mars on November 18, 2013. 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
    The Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution spacecraft was launched on a ten-month journey to Mars on November 18, 2013. The visualizations on this page show MAVEN's arcing path from Earth to Mars.
  • Investigating the Martian Atmosphere
    The Martian surface bears ample evidence of flowing water in its youth, from ancient 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.
  • Targeting Mars
    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 Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution spacecraft did just that.
  • Goddard Goes to Mars
    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.
  • Launch and Deployment Animations
    This animation follows the MAVEN spacecraft's journey to Mars - from launch on an Atlas V rocket, through its solar panel deployments, to its dramatic engine burn during Mars orbit insertion.
  • MAVEN Launch Highlights
    On November 18, 2013, the MAVEN spacecraft launched on an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida. This page contains highlights of the launch, available for download in broadcast-quality HD.
  • Pre-launch Live Shot
    Spacecraft footage and interview with Dr. Jim Garvin, previewing the launch of NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) mission on November 18, 2013.
  • Principal Investigator and Project Manager Interviews
    Principal Investigator Bruce Jakosky and Project Manager David F. Mitchell discuss NASA's MAVEN mission, and its goal of understanding the evolution of the Martian climate.
  • Mission Overview with Principal Investigator
    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
    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.
  • Mars Atmospheric Loss
    When you take a look at Mars, you probably wouldn't think that it looks like a nice place to live. It's dry, it's dusty, and there's practically no atmosphere. But some scientists think that Mars may have once looked like a much nicer place to live, with a thicker atmosphere, cloudy skies, and possibly even liquid water flowing over the surface. So how did Mars transform from a warm, wet world to a cold, barren desert? NASA's MAVEN spacecraft will give us a clearer idea of how Mars lost its atmosphere (and thus its water), and scientists think that several processes have had an impact.
  • Mars Climate History
    This page contains conceptual animations depicting a transition from a "Wet" Mars that may have existed long ago to the "Dry" Mars that we see today.
  • Spacecraft Animations and Statistics
    NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution mission is helping scientists to uncover the secrets of the ancient Martian climate. This page contains animations of MAVEN at Mars and spacecraft statistics.
  • MAVEN Spacecraft and Instrument Footage
    This page contains broadcast-quality footage of the MAVEN spacecraft and science instruments.
  • Particles & Fields Instrument Package
    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.
  • Neutral Gas and Ion Mass Spectrometer (NGIMS)
    While NASA rovers, landers, and orbiters have scrutinized the surface of Mars for decades, a key question to understanding the Red Planet's ancient habitability has hitherto gone unanswered: what happened to its atmosphere? NASA's MAVEN spacecraft will fill in this gap in the history of Mars, thanks in part to its Neutral Gas and Ion Mass Spectrometer, or NGIMS instrument. By studying the interaction of neutral gases and ions with the solar wind, NGIMS will observe current atmospheric escape processes on Mars and allow scientists to extrapolate back to the ancient atmosphere. The results could tell scientists just how long Mars was wet and hospitable, refining our understanding of its early potential for life.
  • Imaging Ultraviolet Spectrograph (IUVS)
    The philosophy of NASA's Mars Program has been "Follow the water," but "Where did the atmosphere go?" is still a lingering question. Although fluvial features such as dry riverbeds are visible on Mars, the atmosphere today is too thin to support liquid water, implying that Mars once had a thicker atmosphere that was lost to space. NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN Mission, or MAVEN, will test this hypothesis. As part of its remote sensing instrument package, MAVEN's Imaging Ultraviolet Spectrograph (IUVS) will look at isotopic hydrogen ratios in the upper atmosphere of Mars, helping scientists to determine just how much water once flowed across the Red Planet.
  • Magnetometer (MAG) Instrument
    When you navigate with a compass you can orient yourself thanks to Earth's global magnetic field. But on Mars, if you were to walk around with a compass it would haphazardly point from one anomaly to another, because the Red Planet does not possess a global magnetosphere. Scientists think that this lack of a protective magnetic field may have allowed the solar wind to strip away the Martian atmosphere over billions of years, and now NASA's MAVEN spacecraft will study this process in detail with its pair of ring core fluxgate magnetometers.
  • Employee Profiles (Spanish)
    Spanish-language profile videos of MAVEN Deputy Project Manager Sandra Cauffman and software engineer Carlos Gomez-Rosa.
  • Guide to Satellites: Construction
    Building satellites isn't easy. They're complex, expensive, and not to mention hard to make! This is why whenever NASA makes a new satellite—like the MAVEN mission to Mars—its scientists and engineers do everything they can to make sure it's done right. Now, putting a satellite together is nothing like putting together, say, an office chair. A single bolt can take hours to install, and you can't even imagine how complex the electronics are! Find out more about the whole process in this video!
  • Guide to Satellites: Design Phase
    Building satellites isn't easy. They're complex, expensive, and not to mention hard to make! This is why whenever NASA makes a new satellite—like the MAVEN mission to Mars—its scientists and engineers do everything they can to make sure it's done right. One of the most important steps in this process is the design review, where everything is checked and double-checked to make sure the satellite is ready to build!
  • Beauty Passes and Orbit Animations
    This collection contains early animations showing the MAVEN spacecraft in orbit around Mars, as well as MAVEN's overall orbit trajectory. Newer animations can be found on the "Mars Orbit Insertion Animations" and "Launch and Deployment Animations" pages near the top of this gallery.
  • General Teaser
    The MAVEN spacecraft is an exciting new unmanned Mars mission designed specifically to study the upper atmosphere of Mars. By studying how Mars' atmosphere is lost to space today, MAVEN will allow us to answer some important questions about the history of the red planet. How did it lose its atmosphere and surface water? How did its climate change? With data from MAVEN, we'll be able to determine how Mars' climate has changed over time, and how Mars transformed from a planet that possibly had a thicker atmosphere and liquid water to the barren landscape we see today.
  • Science Teaser
    The Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution Mission (MAVEN), set to launch in 2013, will 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 from the Mars atmosphere to space has played through time, giving insight into the history of Mars atmosphere and climate, liquid water, and planetary habitability.