October 7th, 2016

Mangalyaan’s Second Anniversary at Mars

Global view of Mars from MOM.
ISRO/ISSDC/Emily Lakdawalla/The Planetary Society

On Mars Orbiter Mission’s (MOM) second anniversary of Mars arrival, ISRO has (finally!) made available to the public data from its first year in orbit. As expected, there are no dramatically new science results. The most anticipated results were from the Methane Sensor for Mars (MSM), which unfortunately hasn’t found any methane on the planet. This does not necessarily imply that there is no methane at Mars, only that MSM is likely not sensitive enough to sense trace amounts of methane that are present.

Other payloads include the Lyman Alpha Photometer (LAP), which studies the abundance of deuterium and hydrogen in the atmosphere, the Thermal Infrared Imaging Spectrometer (TIIS) to study and map the mineral surface of Mars, and the Mars Exospheric Neutral Composition Analyser (MENCA), a neutral gas spectrometer. MENCA’s science results were already published in a paper in March.

November 3rd, 2015

Red Mars? Discovery of surface water spurs Chinese interest in lander

The gold coloured model, which is a third of the size of the actual probe, consists of an orbiter and a lander. (Photo: Long Wei, Asia News Photo)

Nearly two years ago, China became only the third country to make a soft landing on the moon when its Chang’e 3 spacecraft successfully deployed the Yutu rover. Now China appears increasingly set on doing the same thing on Mars.

This week at the 17th China International Industry Fair in Shanghai, the country’s Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation unveiled a model of a planned probe to Mars. Several Chinese news outlets have reported that the country’s space program continues to progress toward the launch of a robotic mission to Mars in 2020, including both an orbiting spacecraft as well as a lander.

China made an initial but unsuccessful attempt to reach Mars in November 2011 with its Yinghuo-1 spacecraft. However, that orbiter, a secondary payload on a Russian mission to the Mars moon of Phobos, was lost after the Russian Phobos-Grunt spacecraft failed to make the required number of burns to exit Earth orbit. Both the Russian and Chinese spacecraft eventually disintegrated over the Pacific Ocean as they fell through the atmosphere.

That failure dampened some of China’s enthusiasm for Mars, but NASA’s recent discovery of periodic, briny water flows on the red planet appears to have renewed the Chinese space agency’s interest.

October 16th, 2015

Comet’s Close Encounter with Mars Dumped Tons of Dust on Red Planet

Sebastian Voltmer in Germany used the iTelescope at Siding Spring Observatory, Coonabarabran, New South Wales, Australia to capture Comet C/2013 A1 passing very close to Mars on 19 October 2014. He used their Takahashi FSQ ED refractor and SBIG STL11000M camera for four 120-seconds exposures; RGB 120-seconds (Bin 2). Image credit: © Sebastian Voltmer.


Comet Siding Spring’s close shave by Mars last year provided a rare glimpse into how Oort Cloud comets behave, according to new research.

The comet flew by Mars at a range of just 83,900 miles (135,000 kilometers) — close enough for the outer ridges of its tenuous atmosphere to pummel the planet with gas and dust.

In just a short flyby, the comet dumped about 2,200 to 4,410 lbs. (1,000 to 2,000 kg) of dust made of magnesium, silicon, calcium and potassium — all of which are rock-forming elements — into the upper atmosphere, the new study found.

October 7th, 2015

India’s 1st Mars Mission Celebrates One Year at Red Planet


India’s first-ever Mars probe is now one year into its historic mission, and it’s still going strong.

The Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) spacecraft, also known as Mangalyaan, arrived at the Red Planet on the night of Sept. 23, 2014 (Sept. 24 GMT and Indian Standard Time), just two days after NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution probe (MAVEN) reached Mars orbit.

Mangalyaan, which means “Mars craft” in Sanskrit, was the first interplanetary probe ever launched by India, and its $73 million mission is primarily a technology demonstration, officials with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) have said.

May 4th, 2015

Traffic Around Mars Gets Busy NASA

NASA has beefed up a process of traffic monitoring, communication and maneuver planning to ensure that Mars orbiters do not approach each other too closely.

Last year’s addition of two new spacecraft orbiting Mars brought the census of active Mars orbiters to five, the most ever. NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) and India’s Mars Orbiter Mission joined the 2003 Mars Express from ESA (the European Space Agency) and two from NASA: the 2001 Mars Odyssey and the 2006 Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). The newly enhanced collision-avoidance process also tracks the approximate location of NASA’s Mars Global Surveyor, a 1997 orbiter that is no longer working.

It’s not just the total number that matters, but also the types of orbits missions use for achieving their science goals. MAVEN, which reached Mars on Sept. 21, 2014, studies the upper atmosphere. It flies an elongated orbit, sometimes farther from Mars than NASA’s other orbiters and sometimes closer to Mars, so it crosses altitudes occupied by those orbiters. For safety, NASA also monitors positions of ESA’s and India’s orbiters, which both fly elongated orbits

March 23rd, 2015

Mangalyaan completes six months in Mars orbit Zee News

India’s Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), lovingly called Mangalyaan on Tuesday completed six months in the red planet’s orbit.

Previously it was estimated that India’s first inter-planetary expedition will have a lifespan of 6 months, but now, it has emerged that the spacecraft has about 37 kilograms of fuel left, and hence the mission can last for few more days, weeks or even months.

India created history in space to become the first Asian country to reach the Red Planet and the first in the world to reach the Martian orbit on maiden attempt.

October 2nd, 2014

India, U.S. Agree to Joint Exploration of Mars The Wall Street Journal

India’s satellite Mangalyaan has only been orbiting Mars for a week, but already space scientists back on Earth are planning their next mission: this time in tandem with the U.S.
On Tuesday, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration signed an agreement to work with the Indian Space Research Organisation during future explorations of Mars. They also agreed to join forces in observations and scientific analysis from their respective satellites currently orbiting the red planet.

September 29th, 2014

Dust Storm on Mars Captured by India’s Mars Orbiter IBTimes UK

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The full image of Mars shown in the latest of a series of photos from India’s Mars orbiter has generated much interest within the country and in planetary circles.
While those at home chose to see an image of India on the Martian surface, at the Planetary Society the image has been welcomed for its superior detail, coming years after Hubble clicked one 11 years ago.
“A data set unlike any generated before by any other mission, the MOM’s pictures should inform public perception of Mars for years to come’, says the report.

September 25th, 2014

First pictures from Mars arrive, Mangalyaan ‘doing well’ Hindustan Times

The Mangalyaan spacecraft beamed its first photos of Mars’ crater-marked surface on Thursday, a day after India successfully put the probe into the red planet’s orbit.
The Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) posted one of the photos, titled First Light, on its Facebook page, showing an orange surface with dark cavities, taken from a distance of 7,300 km. Isro also posted the photo on Twitter with the note, “The view is nice up here.”
An Isro team led by agency chief K Radhakrishnan met the Prime Minister in Delhi on Thursday with hard copies of all the pictures taken by the Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) probe. The space agency will release all the photographs this afternoon.

September 24th, 2014

Mars Robotic Spacecraft Population Reaches New High IEEE Spectrum

September has shaped up to be a very exciting month in the annals of Mars exploration. Two new spacecraft, NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) mission and India’s first interplanetary mission, the Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), have now entered orbit around the Red Planet.
The new arrivals bring the population of active Mars missions to seven—a record high, confirms Bruce Betts of The Planetary Society, a space advocacy organization. On the ground now are Opportunity, which landed in 2004, and NASA’s Curiosity rover, which recently entered its third year of operation.
MAVEN and MOM join a complement of three orbiters: NASA’s 13-year-old Mars Odyssey spacecraft, the European Space Agency’s 11-year-old Mars Express spacecraft, and NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which arrived in 2006.