Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution Mission (MAVEN)


The Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution Mission (MAVEN), set to launch in late 2013, will explore our near neighbor’s upper atmosphere and interactions with the Sun. MAVEN launches between November 18 and December 7, 2013, and the prime mission extends to late 2015.

The MAVEN mission’s approved Education and Public Outreach (E/PO) Implementation Plan, slated to run from 2010 through 2016, is outlined below. The program is designed to actively engage millions of students, educators, and members of the general public in the quest to understand Mars’ story of atmosphere and climate, liquid water, and planetary habitability – and, through comparison – help us to better understand Earth’s story!

Beginning on Oct 1, 2013, proposed cuts to NASA E/PO programming will cause the elimination of all of the MAVEN E/PO programming listed below. Some “communications” aspects of the program may be preserved at a reduced level via non-E/PO funding avenues.

More about the MAVEN programs can be found at:


Science Mission:

MAVEN is the first mission devoted to understanding the Martian upper atmosphere. The mission will help to determine the role that loss of atmospheric gas to space played in changing the Martian climate through time. Where did the atmosphere—and the water—go? MAVEN will tell us how much of the Martian atmosphere has been lost over time by measuring the current rate of escape to space and gathering enough information about the relevant processes to allow extrapolation backward in time.

Education and Public Outreach Mission and Approach: Approved Plan

MAVEN’s E/PO program will capitalize on people’s fascination with Mars to engage them in the science and excitement of MAVEN. Participants will explore MAVEN science, engineering, and data through the lens of habitability: atmosphere, sun as driver, and solar wind. The program will develop an understanding of Mars and its atmosphere through time and through comparison with Earth. The MAVEN E/PO program will deepen teacher, student, and public understanding of planetary habitability.

The MAVEN E/PO implementation plan is in alignment with the MAVEN mission project plan and the Mars Exploration Program Public Engagement (MEPPE) plan. It also aligns with the NASA Strategic Plan and the NASA Education Framework and other SMD E/PO guidance. The plan is coordinated with the MAVEN public affairs plan to ensure that all appropriate functions are covered and that there is no overlap. Each individual project builds on evidence-based approaches that have proven to be effective for us, our partners, or the education community; we focus our efforts on experience- and research-based best practices. Broad goals as listed below are further broken down into detailed learning objectives by project/audience and then evaluated by an external evaluator against those stated goals/objectives.

MAVEN’s E/PO overarching goal is to engage multiple audiences in the quest to understand Mars' long term atmospheric losses, giving insight into the history of Mars’ atmosphere and climate, liquid water, and planetary habitability. In order to meet this ultimate goal, for each program we will develop the strategies that educators will use to identify and integrate new content into existing programs or curricula, identify and address known preconceptions, and reflect on which pedagogical tools or methods make sense for the given program, such as allowing time for sense-making, discourse, focusing on inquiry, or attending to the learning environment (e.g., motivation, providing feedback, reinforcing effort, thinking scientifically). As we evaluate both formatively and summatively our programs, these “best practices” together with our evaluation data, will help guide our work and ensure that we are successful in both in meeting our audience needs as well as their learning potential.

MAVEN scientists are directly involved with MAVEN E/PO projects in many ways: writing and reviewing science content shared through educational products, collaborating with mission educators on the development of educational materials, interpreting/clarifying data and results for sharing with the public, and interacting with the public through presentations and electronic and social media efforts.

MAVEN’s goal for formal education is that K-12 educators across the United States are equipped with the necessary tools to help their colleagues or students understand appropriate science and engineering concepts and processes related to MAVEN and the history of Mars’ atmosphere and climate, liquid water, and planetary habitability. Formal education projects include:

  • MAVEN Educator Ambassador (MEA) Project – a train-the-trainer project. Each set of MEAs begin the MEA project with a week of professional development (PD), and then the Ambassadors do their own professional development workshops with a 'second tier' of teachers in their states (referred to as Tier 2 Teachers). The total number of secondary teachers impacted is expected to be 700, reaching 47,000 of their students. The project includes creating spectroscopy lessons relevant to MAVEN and creating a connection between existing magnetism lessons and MAVEN science and engineering.
  • Space Science Teachers Summit – a week-long teacher professional development workshop on space science topics for rural Colorado middle and high school teachers in FY13 and FY14. The MAVEN E/PO team expects to train 60 teachers over the two years, with an estimated reach of 1,800 students. MAVEN provides three days of content and activities around spectroscopy, magnetism, and habitability topics and lessons during the week.
  • Red Planet: Read, Write, Explore! – a curriculum development and professional development project for elementary teachers across the United States and focused on Hispanic/Latino communities. The curriculum will incorporate science in elementary school literacy projects using the topic of Mars exploration. The MAVEN E/PO team expects to reach 197 teachers and approximately 6,000 of their students, with additional online downloads of English/Spanish curricula.

The goal for MAVEN’s informal education program is that informal science educators are equipped with the necessary tools to engage Native American youth, girls, or the public in understanding relevant aspects of MAVEN and the history of Mars’ atmosphere and climate, liquid water, and planetary habitability. Informal education projects include:

  • MAVEN Science on a Sphere (SOS) – a project that builds on a previous NASA Mars Space Weather E/PO project, Seeing the Invisible, for Science on a Sphere. The MAVEN E/PO team adapts this script for public audiences and provides trainings for SOS practitioners from science centers around the United States on the SOS script, graphics, and MAVEN science and mission. The goal is to train 60 SOS practitioners. These educators represent science centers each reaching between 60,000 and 3 million visitors per year.
  • Imagine Mars through Native Eyes – a professional development project for informal out-of-school time educators of Native young teenagers, which adapts the process-driven MEPPE Imagine Mars project. The MAVEN E/PO team expects to train 30 out-of-school time educators, with a total reach of 900 Native youth.
  • Girls Go to Mars! patch kit project – a Girl Scouts project to develop engaging activities using MAVEN science and engineering content, culminating in a patch for girl scouts around the country. Trainings for Girl Scout troop leaders are included in the final years of the project. Estimated dissemination is 20 troops per state with approximately 10 girls per troop, or approximately 2,000 troop leaders and 10,000 Girl Scouts nationwide.

MAVEN’s goal for public outreach is that new media/traditional media practitioners and the public are engaged in broadening and deepening their understanding of the MAVEN mission, “the way science works,” and discoveries related to the history of Mars’ atmosphere and climate, liquid water, and planetary habitability. Public outreach projects include:

  • Web and social media – the MAVEN E/PO website, Facebook page, Twitter account, and events related to these new media will inspire the public to understand the MAVEN journey and discoveries. Due to the viral nature of social media, the potential reach of any unique post we create across all of our social media platforms is well over 20 million individuals.
  • New Media Practitioners Professional Development Workshops – two 2-day workshops for bloggers, journalists, and people actively involved in accurate science tweets on MAVEN-related science, technology and engineering concepts. The MAVEN E/PO team expects to engage approximately 24 media practitioners with access to “viral” networks that may reach millions of people.

Lead Organizations

Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics 




The goals of MAVEN E/PO and the projects designed to meet these goals will not be accomplished without the collaboration between many different institutions.

Core team:

  • Stephanie Renfrow, E/PO Lead, Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) at the University of Colorado, Boulder (manage E/PO program)
  • Dr. Laura Peticolas, E/PO Deputy Lead, Space Sciences Laboratory (SSL) at the University of California, Berkeley (UCB) (co-manage E/PO program)
  • Andrea Jones, MAVEN Science On a Sphere Lead, Universities Space Research Association/ Lunar and Planetary Institute/Goddard (USRA/LPI/Goddard) (lead SOS effort)
  • Lora Bleacher, MAVEN E/PO Goddard Leveraging Lead (charged with incorporating MAVEN programming into Goddard E/PO programming)
  • Edna DeVore, Girls Go to Mars! Lead, SETI Institute (project lead)
  • Drs. Nancy Maryboy/David Begay, Imagine Mars Through Native Eyes Leads, Indigenous Education Institute (IEI) (lead Imagine Mars effort)
  • Dr. Allyson Walker, Independent Evaluator, Cornerstone Evaluation Associates, LLC (Cornerstone) (perform independent evaluation)

Additional partners:

  • Kalepa Baybayan, Imagine Mars Through Native Eyes partner, ‘Imiloa Science Center (extend reach of Imagine Mars project to native communities)
  • Marina LaGrave, Red Planet Science-in-Literature partner, CLACE (extend reach of Red Planet into Latino and other diverse communities)
  • Karen Hunter, Red Planet and Project Spectra partner, MESA St-Vrain (extend reach of projects into underserved and underrepresented groups)
  • Carlota Loya, Red Planet and Project Spectra partner, Casa de la Esperanza (extend reach of projects into underserved and underrepresented groups, particularly migrant workers)



MAVEN’s plan for evaluation involves a comprehensive, multi-method approach spanning the project’s six-year duration (FY11-FY16). Cornerstone Evaluation Associates LLC is the external research firm charged with carrying out the evaluation activities necessary to determine the effectiveness and impact of MAVEN’s Education and Public Outreach (E/PO) effort and its success in achieving its overall goal to “engage multiple audiences in the quest to understand Mars’ long-term atmospheric losses, giving insight into the history of Mars’ atmosphere and climate, liquid water, and planetary habitability.”

Moreover, Cornerstone will assess the impact of the MAVEN E/PO project within the broader context of educational goals outlined by the Science Mission Directorate (SMD) and Mars Exploration Program Public Engagement (MEPPE). The evaluation will demonstrate how MAVEN’s outcomes address SMD’s goals in engaging Americans in NASA’s mission, attracting and retaining students in STEM disciplines and strengthening NASA and the Nation’s future workforce. The evaluation will also provide evidence of the project’s success in achieving other strategic SMD goals including:

  • avoiding duplication of effort and tapping existing dissemination networks;
  • coordinating with key players within NASA Space Science and NASA Education and with interested institutions outside of NASA;
  • involving mission scientists throughout the effort and reaching out to underserved and underrepresented communities.

Throughout the MAVEN E/PO Program, Cornerstone will take primary responsibility for:

  • designing all data collection instruments
  • facilitating the collection of all data
  • managing, analyzing and interpreting all data
  • providing ‘as needed’ feedback for informed decision-making and a final summary report focused on MAVEN’s outcomes

Cornerstone and the rest of the MAVEN team will collaborate on various aspects of these activities. At the outset of each MAVEN E/PO Project, the Project team will work with CEA to put together a logic model that incorporates Project Inputs, Project Activities, Project Outputs, Project Outcomes, NASA Outcomes, and the U.S. Strategic Impact. The management team will also develop an overall logic model to show how data gathered for each MAVEN E/PO Project leads to intermediate outcomes, leading to ultimate outcomes. The MAVEN E/PO Team will assist Cornerstone in instrument review and revision for their respective projects and will collect data at ‘live’ venues like workshops and exhibits.

Cornerstone will also design evaluation instruments for each of MAVEN’s projects relying on sound principals for item-writing and designing survey questions (Converse and Presser, 1986). The instruments that Cornerstone will design incorporate myriad data collection methodologies including:

  • Self-report questionnaires—using retrospective pre-test methodology as well as post-workshop/follow-up strategies
  • Pre-post knowledge assessments/’tests’—administered at ‘live’ workshops or online
  • In-depth telephone interviews—conducted primarily for formative feedback
  • Logs of workshops, events, etc.
  • Analytics from various social media and Web sites

All evaluative data collected will be used to provide information for three purposes: 1) Summative outcomes—evidence of the impact of MAVEN’s various formal, informal and outreach projects, 2) Formative feedback—feedback to the MAVEN team for making improvements to curriculum activities and professional development strategies and 3) Accountability statistics—documentation of events and counts of individuals involved in various MAVEN-related activities.

The thrust of MAVEN’s evaluative efforts will be on its summative outcomes. In designing the summative evaluation plan, Cornerstone, in collaboration with the MAVEN team, relied on NSF’s ‘Framework for Evaluating Impacts of Informal Science Education Projects’ to serve as a compass for developing both quantitative and qualitative measures to tap project participants’ knowledge, attitudes, behaviors and skills with regard to MAVEN-related science topics and information.

Cornerstone will provide the MAVEN team with ongoing formative feedback on an ‘as needed’ basis so that the team is positioned to make informed, data-driven decisions. This feedback will be in the form of debriefing teleconferences and technical summary reports. Ongoing feedback allows the MAVEN team to make project improvements in ‘real time’ during the life of the program. Additionally, Cornerstone will conduct formative evaluations for two curriculum development projects embedded in the MAVEN (Project Spectra! and the Red Planet: Read, Write, Explore! Science-in-Literacy Project curriculum), providing evaluative information during the design phase to reveal the strengths and weaknesses of the curriculum in order to make necessary changes for improving the product. To ensure the quality and comprehensiveness of the formative evaluation effort, Cornerstone will also leverage its MAVEN partners who already carry out ‘internal’ formative evaluations of their products and activities (e.g., Girls Go to Mars!, Science On a Sphere). These partners will share their formative findings with Cornerstone who will incorporate these results into the final MAVEN report.

Finally, Cornerstone will develop instruments and rely on online analytics to obtain project-specific accountability information—project outputs as well as participant demographic and psychographic data. Beyond the evaluation of each of MAVEN’s E/PO Projects, Cornerstone will devote special attention to assessing the effectiveness of post-data programming, that is, the evaluation of the team’s endeavors to incorporate the Mission’s data and its discoveries into MAVEN E/PO project elements. The team’s strategies for including this information involve teleconferencing, training on interactives, discussions in post-data workshops, adding scientific discoveries to playlists and scripts, supporting sustaining activities, adding scientific discoveries to curriculum and distributing announcements. Each of these endeavors will be evaluated using similar methods as described above.

Because of the current stage of MAVEN EPO, we have begun only preliminary evaluation on a few of our pilot programs/early projects; please see below.

  1. Online outreach. The goal of our online outreach for MAVEN is to create impact for our audiences in the categories of awareness, engagement/interest, and behavior. Based on those specific goals—for example, creating awareness of the mission and interaction on our social media platforms—we believe that, thus far, we are meeting those goals quite well.
    Evaluation of MAVEN social media and website programming is ongoing, with specific events targeted for more detailed analysis. We currently have 3,175 followers on Facebook and 9,750 followers on Twitter. These two platforms represent our primary focus in terms of interactive social media tools. A Facebook post (related to the Going to Mars campaign) that we published on May 1, 2013 was reposted by NASA and subsequently reached over 2 million individuals. A twitter post was “retweeted” by NASA on May 1, 2013 and subsequently reached over 4 million individuals. Due to the viral nature of social media, the potential reach of any unique post we create across all of our social media platforms is well over 20 million individuals.
    The MAVEN E/PO team launched a major crowdsourcing campaign in March 2013, when we began soliciting artwork from students for the cover of a DVD that will accompany the MAVEN spacecraft on its mission to Mars. This aspect of the Going to Mars campaign recently closed with 377 submissions from all over the world receiving a total of 82,000 votes from the public. We are currently accepting names and haiku poems to be placed on the DVD; as of this writing, we have received over 22,000 names and 11,000 poems. The campaign has generated a huge amount of attention from the media and the public, and has increased our total page views to date on MAVEN web pages to nearly 700,000 views.
  2. Red Planet. One of the objectives of MAVEN’s Red Planet Teacher Workshop project is to increase the Awareness, Knowledge and Understanding of the MAVEN mission, MAVEN science and engineering. As a way to measure the success of this objective is to examine the pre-post evaluation quiz was developed was designed to quantify these metrics.
    The results of the pre-post evaluation show that before the Red Planet: Read, Write, Explore workshops, participants averaged 66% on the content evaluation. After the workshop, the average grade was 91%, showing a 25% increase in knowledge and understanding of Mars and MAVEN concepts, science and engineering. In addition, the evaluation helped to uncover some very significant misconceptions surrounding Mars and the MAVEN mission, including the effect of gravity on astronauts and the role of MAVEN.


Effectiveness and Impact

Again, because of the current stage of MAVEN EPO, we have begun only preliminary evaluation on a few of our pilot programs/early projects; please see below. Information below pertains to the only two projects that are far enough along to show impacts.

  1. Online outreach. As an example of the impact of our web and social media efforts, over 1,000 stories or posts were created on Facebook by unique users across the platform during the week of May 1, 2013. Web traffic statistics indicate that 40% of visitors to the MAVEN web site visit at least one other page after they enter the site, which means that visitors to our E/PO pages may also learn about the science of the mission (and vice versa). The day after we announced the opening of the name and haiku submission process for the Going to Mars campaign, we had nearly 5,000 page views on the main MAVEN site alone. Due to the viral nature of social media, the potential reach of any unique post we create across all of our social media platforms is well over 20 million individuals.
    Since launching the Going to Mars with MAVEN campaign, we have seen a dramatic increase in interactions across all of our social media platforms. These interactions include comments and messages on Facebook, and mentions, retweets, and direct messages on Twitter. These interactions have allowed us to engage our audiences, both with the crowdsourcing effort and in the science of MAVEN as well.
    “As a published poet, space enthusiast, and communication specialist, I just wanted to commend all involved in conceiving the Message to Mars contest. It is a wonderful public participation opportunity in conjunction with the Maven mission. I am reminded of the Spielberg movie "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" in which music was employed to communicate with extraterrestrials; perhaps haiku poetry can do as well - we shall see; in the meantime, this idea is out of this world!”
    Coverage included MSNBC, NPR, radio stations across the country, and so forth, including an in-depth interview by an English Professor at Willamette University in Salem, whose research focuses on the intersection of poetry and popular culture and who wrote an in-depth interview/story on the MAVEN Going to Mars campaign for his blog, “Poetry and Popular Culture.”
    The formative evaluation on the impacts of the MAVEN web and social media effort is ongoing.
  2. Red Planet. The impact of the Red Planet: Read, Write, Explore pre-post content evaluation has been discussed in the previous question at length. In summary, the increased understanding shown by teachers after participating in the workshop demonstrates that the workshops have had a significant impact on teachers understanding and knowledge surrounding the MAVEN mission.
    As we have not yet had the MAVEN Ambassador Education (MEA) workshops and we have not yet finished the SPECTRA lesson evaluation, we cannot yet provide impact data on this program and product. However, as the SPECTRA overarching curriculum was initiated with a ROSES EPOESS grant, we have the final evaluation plan showcasing impacts of this curriculum, and expect similar results with the additional MAVEN lessons to this curriculum.

Many of the educators who participated in the MAVEN Going to Mars campaign’s student art contest developed curriculum around the contest (for quote and further information, see The impact of the Going to Mars effort on the teachers, students, and non-school-based entrants is evident, both in the educators’ quotes about their efforts and in each of the 377 unique and insightful entries, themselves. The winning submission, selected by public online vote, was a class project led by a Kindergarten Enrichment teacher (see