The 2014 AGU Public Lecture will feature a panel of expert scientists who will speak about their work on the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) mission.

Although Mars is now a barren planet with a thin atmosphere, it may not have always been this way. Previous scientific missions to Mars have indicated that the planet’s atmosphere and climate have changed significantly over time, and the planet might have even had sufficient atmosphere to allow liquid water and microbial life to exist on its surface. The MAVEN spacecraft will observe the current upper atmosphere of Mars and its interactions with sunlight and solar wind to explore how the solar wind could have stripped away the planet’s early atmosphere. Data from MAVEN will shed light on the history of Mars’s climate, liquid water, and potential habitability.

The MAVEN spacecraft was launched in November 2013, and it arrived at Mars and began orbiting the planet in September 2014. In the public lecture, three scientists will talk about how they came to work on the project, the mission science concept, science observations made during the cruise to get there, observations of Comet Siding Spring (which made a close approach to Mars in October 2014), and early observations of the Mars upper atmosphere. They will also go into detail about how the spacecraft was developed and launched and the day-to-day operations as it orbits Mars.

The first speaker, and the principal investigator of the MAVEN Mission, will be Bruce Jakosky from the University of Colorado Boulder. Also on the panel will be the deputy project manager of MAVEN, Sandra Cauffman from NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. Roger Yelle from the University of Arizona will speak about observations of Comet Siding Spring.

The public lecture is an annual event at AGU’s Fall Meeting. It is a free, family-friendly event designed to engage the local public with exciting, current research of AGU scientists. Past presenters have included astronaut Andrew Feustel, the members of the Mars Curiosity Rover Team, and earthquake expert Lucile Jones. The public lecture will take place on Sunday, 14 December, from noon to 1:00 p.m. at the San Francisco Marriott Marquis in Salon 7. The 1-hour lecture will be immediately followed by Exploration Station, an afternoon of free hands-on science for families.

For more information about AGU’s Public Lecture and Exploration Station, visit

—Kara Gadeken, Intern, Education and Public Outreach, AGU; email:

© 2014. American Geophysical Union. All rights reserved.

© 2014. American Geophysical Union. All rights reserved.