MANGALYAAN- INDIA’S MARS MISSION
After reaching moon, Indian space scientists have set their sight on the Red planet. The first mission to Mars was launched on November 5. Named Mangalyaan, the Mars orbiting mission will be a purely scientific mission and an absolutely indigenous mission without any foreign involvement. The spacecraft is carrying a 24-kg-payload including cameras and sensors to study the upper atmosphere as well as the ‘chemical and mineralogical’ features of the Red planet and will send data continuously back to the Earth. The spacecraft was launched by an advanced version of ISRO’s polar satellite launch vehicle (PSLV-XL) and will be placed in an elliptical orbit around Mars with farthest and nearest orbital points of around 80,000km and 375 km respectively. It will take around months for the spacecraft to reach Mars. Described as a technology demonstrator, the mission’s success will prove that India has capability to reach the far away planet and orbit around Mars. India has now become the sixth country to launch a mission to Red Planet after the US, Russia, Europe, Japan and China.
NASA’S MAVEN MISSION TO MARS
Around the same time Mangalyaan reaches Mars, an American spacecraft MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution Mission) will also arrive at the Red Planet. But the two will work independently. Compared to the Indian spacecraft’s orbit of 80,000 km x 375 km, MAVEN will be placed at a low orbit of 50-75 km. MAVEN will explore the planet’s upper atmosphere, ionosphere and interactions with the sun and solar wind. MAVEN data will be used to determine the role that loss of volatile compounds- such as carbon dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, and water- from the Martian atmosphere has played through time, giving insight into the history of the Mars atmosphere and climate, liquid water, and planetary habitability. It will also address the question of where the planet’s once thicker atmosphere- and water flowing long ago-have gone.