Plasma measurements at Mars: why do we care?

  1. Understand the structure, composition, variability and dynamics of Mars’ unique hybrid magnetosphere.
  2. Atmospheric escape processes: ion escape and sputtering escape help drive climate evolution of terrestrial planets.

MAVEN paints “average picture” of a dynamic magnetosphere

A single measurement platform leaves major questions unanswered:

  • Spatial and temporal variations in escape fluxes cannot be distinguished.
  • Responses of escape fluxes and other dynamics to changing solar wind conditions (~1 minute) can only be measured with a time-lag of an hour or (much) more.
    • The same problem faced terrestrial space plasma physics in the 1980s, early 1990s.
    • Single spacecraft couldn’t characterize plasma boundary dynamics.
    • Multiple spacecraft allowed the 3D, time-resolved measurements to create a realistic picture of the magnetosphere and how solar wind conditions affect it.