04:38 GMT28 January 2020
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    NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft has completed the first of five deep-dip maneuvers intended to collect measurements closer to the lower end of the planet’s upper atmosphere.

    The MAVEN mission’s main goal is to understand how gas from the atmosphere escapes to space and how this has affected the Red Planet’s climate history through time, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center said in a statement.

    As it is being lost to space, gas is removed from the top of the upper atmosphere, but it is the thicker lower atmosphere that controls the climate.

    "During normal science mapping, we make measurements between an altitude of about 150km and 6,200km above the surface," said Bruce Jakosky, MAVEN principal investigator at the University of Colorado.

    "During the deep-dip campaigns, we lower the lowest altitude in the orbit to about 125km which allows us to take measurements throughout the entire upper atmosphere," he said.

    The first deep dip campaign ran February 10 to February 18.

    MAVEN is the first mission dedicated to studying the upper atmosphere of Mars.

    The spacecraft launched Nov. 18, 2013, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida and entered Mars’ orbit on Sept. 21, 2014.

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