NASA’s MAVEN Mission
– Solving the Mystery of Mars’ Disappearing Atmosphere –
Prof. Nick Schneider
Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics
University of Colorado
Billions of years ago, Mars was apparently warm, wet and possibly habitable.
An ocean may have covered the northern hemisphere.
Only a thick atmosphere ~100 times denser than today’s could make this possible.
NASA and ESA missions have searched without success for evidence that the atmosphere
gases and water are locked up in surface rocks and soil or the polar caps.
We are left to consider the unexpected hypothesis that 99% of the former atmosphere
and abundant water has escaped to space.
The MAVEN mission’s purpose is to test this hypothesis by studying ongoing
atmospheric loss and its dependence on solar activity.
I will discuss how the Imaging UV Spectrograph will help solve the mystery by studying
the escape of deuterium relative to hydrogen.