NASA’s MAVEN Orbiter Celebrates One Year Around Mars

A look at the spacecraft's first year studying the Martian atmosphere
This artist’s conception compares how Mars might have looked as a wetter, warmer planet (left) than it does today (right). With an average surface temperature of -67°F, the Red Planet is much too cold for us Earthlings today. However, scientists believe Mars was once warm enough to hold liquid water. The data MAVEN collects will tell scientists about Mars’ climate history and help them assess the feasibility of life on Mars. NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

Today marks one year since NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) mission entered orbit around our planetary neighbor. The goal of the $671 million mission is to investigate the planet’s upper atmosphere in hopes that it may hold clues about how Mars transitioned from a wet world with a thick atmosphere to a desert world with a thin one.

Launched on November 18, 2013, the spacecraft traveled for about ten months, over more than 400 million miles, before it reached the Red Planet on September 21, 2014. Since then, MAVEN has circled for a full year, including among its accomplishments the first up-close observation of a comet flying by Mars, and four deep-dip campaigns in which it descended to collect information from the lower, denser portions of the Martian upper atmosphere.

A year later, here are some highlights from MAVEN’s mission so far.