Mars mission science team includes OhioLINK patron

COLUMBUS, Ohio (Sep 22, 2014) — 

Editor's note: NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft successfully entered Mars’ orbit at 10:24 p.m. EDT Sunday, Sept. 21, where it now will prepare to study the Red Planet’s upper atmosphere as never done before. MAVEN is the first spacecraft dedicated to exploring the tenuous upper atmosphere of Mars. OhioLINK's 2014 annual report features the work by Jane Fox, Ph.D., a member of MAVEN's science team, a Wright State University research professor, and an OhioLINK patron.

Wright State University Research Professor Jane L. Fox, Ph.D., is waiting eagerly for MAVEN—short for Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN—to swing gently into the orbit of Mars. A faculty member since 1995, Fox has been studying planetary atmospheres since the 1970s. Her computer models have helped explain the observed particle behavior in the ionospheres of Mars and Venus, and frame questions for subsequent missions, including MAVEN’s.

Along the way, Wright State and OhioLINK together provide Fox with the materials she needs for this reading-intensive research.

MAVEN is expected to enter Mars’ atmosphere on Sept. 21, 2014, Eastern Standard Time, 10 months after launching. However, the ordinarily risky orbit entry is further complicated by a comet’s expected trajectory.

“More than 100 people working on the mission will celebrate a great triumph when MAVEN safely enters orbit,” Fox said.  Team members hail from the University of Colorado Boulder/Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, the University of California, Berkeley/Space Sciences Laboratory, and NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

Fox is part of the seven-member, interdisciplinary science team who will use data from MAVEN to learn how and why the red planet has been losing its atmosphere over billions of years.  By studying the escape rates of atoms into space, they hope to unravel what the primordial atmosphere of Mars was like and whether it could have supported life.

“OhioLINK has been very valuable to me. I don’t recall any book or reference that I’ve needed that I haven’t been able to get through OhioLINK,” Fox said.

“OhioLINK is so convenient,” she added. “It’s part of the reason why I stay in Ohio and at Wright State University.”