The 16th of November 2015 marks the end of MAVENS one year long main mission. During this period it has been determined that solar winds has played a big role in the loss of Mars’ atmosphere, a bright ultraviolet aurora that reached deep into the Martian atmosphere has been observed and the Langmuir Probe and Waves (LPW) instruments on board have discovered an unexpected high-altitude dust cloud.
Two Langmuir Probe and Waves (LPW) instruments are on board MAVEN and both probes are processed with TiSurf. The LPW instruments will provide fundamental measurements of ionospheric properties and dynamics. The Langmuir Probe and Waves is a dual purpose sensor, designed to do measurements in two different modes. The LP-mode measures electron temperature and density, while in Electric Field (Waves)-mode the LPW acts as a voltmeter and measures plasma wave emissions.
Image credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center
Langmuir Probe and Waves antenna, Instrument Lead: Bob Ergun, Credit: NASA/CU-LASP.
As reported back in mars 2015, MAVEN observed two unexpected phenomena in the atmosphere of Mars: a bright ultraviolet aurora that reached deep into the Martian atmosphere and an unexpected high-altitude dust cloud. The dust cloud was detected by the spacecraft’s Langmuir Probe and Waves (LPW) instrument, none of the other MAVEN instruments has, so far, registered its presence. Where the dust-cloud originates from is not known for certain, but the collected data indicates that it probably is interplanetary dust. The dust cloud has been there all along and lies in an altitude ranging 150 to 300 km above Mars’ surface. It does not however pose any risk to MAVEN or any other spacecraft orbiting Mars, as the density of the dust cloud isn’t very high.
MAVEN’s 711 million km trip to Mars started the 18th of November 2013 and successfully entered Mars’ orbit the 21st of September 2014. It has been collecting scientific data since the 16th of November 2014. The spacecraft will be 150 to 6300 km away from the surface depending on where it is on its elliptical orbit around Mars. MAVEN has done five ‘deep-dips’ during its main mission where it descended down to approximately 125 km above the surface. The information collected during these dips has provided a complete profile over Mars’ upper atmosphere, all the way down to the well-mixed top of the lower atmosphere.
MAVEN’s main mission has been dedicated to examining the planets environment and to get the answer to why the planet that once possibly had an environment in which microbial life could live, now is a cold and barren desert. Could solar winds be the cause of the disappearance of the atmosphere? With the data collected by MAVEN it has now been determined that solar winds did play a big role in stripping Mars from its atmosphere early on. Mars did, just as Earth, have a protecting magnetic field that shielded off most of the solar storms, but about 4.2 billion years ago the core of Mars cooled down and the planet lost its protective magnetic field. Today the escape rate of Mars’ atmosphere is 100g per second, but during solar storms the escape rate increases 10 to 20 time. The solar storms was much stronger back then (100-1000 times stronger than today) and the atmosphere was lost in a very high rate. Up until about 3.7 billion years ago water would have been present on Mars but the stripping of the atmosphere caused the disappearance of the water. If the escape rate continues at the same speed, Mars would probably be stripped from the remaining atmosphere in a couple of billion years.
MAVEN’s main mission will end the 16th of November 2015 and will then begin its extended mission. If extended by one year it would be able to observe a full Martian year (98 weeks). The duration of the extended period could however, if approved, last up to 6 years. During the extended mission the spacecraft would continue to collect information about the planet and also serve as a communication relay for the Mars rovers Opportunity and Curiosity. At mission end (or when all the fuel is depleted) the spacecraft will gradually be dragged closer and closer to Mars and finally fall to the surface.
MAVEN measures 11.43 meters with the solar panels deployed and is 2.29 meters wide and 3.47 meters high. It weighs 809 kg without fuel and fully fuelled with hydrazine at launch 2454 kg.
LASP, LPW: http://lasp.colorado.edu/home/maven/science/instrument-package/lpw/
NASA, Science: http://science.nasa.gov/missions/maven/
More Missions in Space with TiSurf coated instruments:
At this moment of time these following active space mission carries TiSurf coated instruments:
• Cassini – Saturn, one Langmuirprobe with a TiSurf processed probe from IRFU.
• Rosetta – Comet 67P, two Langmuirprobes with TiSurf processed probes from IRFU.
• MAVEN – Mars, two Langmuirprobes with TiSurf processed probes from LASP, Colorado.
• Swarm – 3 satellites in orbit around Earth, three Langmuirprobes with TiSurf processed probes from IRFU.
• MMS – 4 satellites in orbit around Earth, in total 16 TiSurf processed probes from IRFU/KTH
More about TiSurf here:
NewSoTech’s TiSurf process for titanium has been tested for space projects by NASA and the University of Uppsala/Ångströms laboratory. Tests show that Titanium Nitride is by far the best surface for photoelectric properties, resistance to particle impact and erosion resistance. TiSurf is today the standard for surface materials for probes in space and is part of a number of ESA and NASA projects, including the Cassini satellite and MMS. The creator of the TiSurf process, Erik Johansson, is currently part of the NewSoTech technical team that is further developing TiSurf technology in order to industrially produce eco-efficient components for demanding applications which strive for low friction, low weight and high resistance to corrosion, e.g. next-generation vehicles, offshore, the energy sector, chemical industries, etc. An upcoming area is replacing components with hard-chrome, which will be produced restrictively due to negative environmental impact. TiSurf is 2-3 times harder than hard-chrome and is a ”green choice”.
*TiSurf is based on the thesis “Surface modification in tribology” by Erik Johansson, PhD, TiSurf International AB/patents EP-B1-0449793 / US 5, 530, 686 / US 5,427, 631 (TiSurf Process®).
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