MOM Arrives at Mars
This week has been a busy time for robotic explorers at Mars. NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft successfully entered orbit on Sunday, September 21. Days later, a second new Mars mission has now reached the red planet.
India has become the fourth nation to successfully deliver a spacecraft to Mars. The Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) is the country’s first interplanetary mission and is primarily focused on proving technological capabilities for the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO).
On the science front, MOM will collect data about martian surface features, morphology and mineralogy. The spacecraft will also search for signs of methane gas in the atmosphere.
MOM’s payload includes:
Lyman Alpha Photometer (LAP): measures the ratio of deuterium and hydrogen in the upper atmosphere of Mars, helping scientists understand the loss of water from the planet.
Methane Sensor for Mars (MSM): measures methane in the martian atmosphere and maps its sources.
Mars Exospheric Neutral Composition Analyser (MENCA): a quadruple mass spectrometer that has its heritage in the Altitudinal Composition Explorer (CHACE) payload on a previous ISRO mission to the Moon, Chandrayaan.
Mars Color Camera (MCC): a tri-color camera that will provide data on the composition of the martian surface. MCC will also spend time capturing images of Mars’ moons Phobos and Deimos.
Thermal Infrared Imaging Spectrometer (TIS): will measure thermal emissions from Mars during both day and night, allowing scientists to map the surface composition and mineralogy of Mars.
MOM joins six active missions at Mars including the MAVEN orbiter, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, Mars Express, Mars Odyssey, the Opportunity rover and the Curiosity rover. Together, this team of robotic explorers are providing valuable information about Mars’ present environment, and clues as to whether or not the planet supported habitats in its history where life could have survived.
A special documentary film on Mars Orbiter Mission. Credit: Ministry of Information & Broadcasting (YouTube)