MAVEN and MOM Missions from NASA and India Plan Martian Science Collaboration in Orbit

by Ken Kremer on October 29, 2013

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MAVEN is NASA’s next Mars orbiter and is due to blastoff on Nov. 18 from Cape Canaveral, Florida. It will study the evolution of the Red Planet’s atmosphere and climate. Universe Today visited MAVEN inside the clean room at the Kennedy Space Center.  With solar panels unfurled, this is exactly how MAVEN looks when flying through space and circling Mars.  Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

MAVEN is NASA’s next Mars orbiter and is due to blastoff on Nov. 18 from Cape Canaveral, Florida. It will study the evolution of the Red Planet’s atmosphere and climate. Universe Today visited MAVEN inside the clean room at the Kennedy Space Center. With solar panels unfurled, this is exactly how MAVEN looks when flying through space and circling Mars. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

After years of hard work by dedicated science and engineering teams, a new pair of Mars orbiter science missions from Earth are in the final stages of prelaunch processing and are nearly set to blast off for the Red Planet in November.

If all goes well, NASA’s MAVEN orbiter and India’s MOM (Mars Orbiter Mission) will “work together” to help solve the mysteries of Mars atmosphere, the chief MAVEN scientist told Universe Today at a NASA briefing today (Oct. 28).

“We plan to collaborate on some overlapping objectives,” Bruce Jakosky told me. Jakosky is MAVEN’s principal Investigator from the University of Colorado at Boulder.

MAVEN and MOM will join Earth’s armada of five operational orbiters and surface rovers currently exploring the Red Planet.

India’s Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) Spacecraft attached to the 4th stage of PSLV-C25 and ready for heat shield closure. It is slated to launch on Nov. 5, 2013. Credit: ISRO

India’s Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) Spacecraft attached to the 4th stage of PSLV-C25 and ready for heat shield closure. It is slated to launch on Nov. 5, 2013. Credit: ISRO

MOM is India’s first mission to Mars. Its also first in line to this year’s Martian on ramp and is slated to lift off in barely one week on Nov. 5 atop the most powerful version of the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) rocket from a seaside launch pad in Srihanikota, India.

The 1,350 kilogram (2,980 pound) MOM orbiter, also known as ‘Mangalyaan’, is the brainchild of ISRO, the Indian Space Research Organization.

NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN Mission (MAVEN) spacecraft launches in three weeks on Nov. 18 atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 401 rocket from a seaside pad on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.

Both MAVEN and MOM will study the Red Planets atmosphere. Although they are independent and carrying different science payloads the two missions do have some common goals.

“There are some overlapping objectives between MAVEN and MOM,” Jakosky said.

“We have had some discussions with the MOM science team.”

Magnetometer science instrument boom juts out from MAVEN solar panel during launch processing inside the clean room at the Kennedy Space Center.  Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

Magnetometer science instrument boom juts out from MAVEN solar panel during launch processing inside the clean room at the Kennedy Space Center. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

Both orbiters are due to arrive at Mars in September 2014 after 10 month interplanetary cruises and will enter different elliptical orbits after main engine braking burns.

MAVEN is the first spacecraft from Earth devoted to investigating and understanding the upper atmosphere of Mars.

The purpose is to study specific processes and determine how and why Mars lost virtually all of its atmosphere billions of years ago and what effect that had on the history of climate change and habitability.

“The major questions about the history of Mars center on the history of its climate and atmosphere and how that’s influenced the surface, geology and the possibility for life,” said Jakosky.

“MAVEN will focus on understanding the history of the atmosphere, how the climate has changed through time, and how that influenced the evolution of the surface and the potential for habitability by microbes on Mars.”

“We don’t know the driver of the change.”

“Where did the water go and where did the carbon dioxide go from the early atmosphere? What were the mechanisms?”

“That’s what driving our exploration of Mars with MAVEN,” said Jakosky.

One of the significant differences between MOM and MAVEN regards methane detection – which is a potential marker for Martian life. Some 90% of Earth’s atmospheric methane derives from living organisms.

MOM has a methane sensor but not MAVEN.

“We just had to leave that one off to stay focused and to stay within the available resources ,” Jakosky told me.

MAVEN carries nine sensors in three instrument suites.

The Particles and Fields Package, provided by the University of California at Berkeley with support from CU/LASP and NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., contains six instruments to characterize the solar wind and the ionosphere of Mars. The Remote Sensing Package, built by CU/LASP, will determine global characteristics of the upper atmosphere and ionosphere. The Neutral Gas and Ion Mass Spectrometer, built by Goddard, will measure the composition of Mars’ upper atmosphere.

MOM’s science complement comprises the tri color Mars Color Camera to image the planet and its two moons, Phobos and Deimos; the Lyman Alpha Photometer to measure the abundance of hydrogen and deuterium and understand the planets water loss process; a Thermal Imaging Spectrometer to map surface composition and mineralogy, the MENCA mass spectrometer to analyze atmospheric composition, and the Methane Sensor for Mars to measure traces of potential atmospheric methane down to the ppm level.

Graphic outlines India’s first ever probe to explore the Red Planet known as the Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM).  Launch is set for Nov. 5 from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre SHAR, Srihairkota, India. Credit: ISRO

Graphic outlines India’s first ever probe to explore the Red Planet known as the Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM). Launch is set for Nov. 5 from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre SHAR, Srihairkota, India. Credit: ISRO

“At the point where we [MAVEN and MOM] are both in orbit collecting data we do plan to collaborate and work together with the data jointly,” Jakosky told me.

“We agreed on the value of collaboration and will hold real discussions at a later time,” he noted.

NASA is providing key communications and navigation support to ISRO and MOM through the agency’s trio of huge tracking antennas in the Deep Space Network (DSN).

Over the course of its one-Earth-year primary mission, MAVEN will observe all of Mars’ latitudes at altitudes ranging from 93 miles to more than 3,800 miles.

MAVEN will execute five deep dip maneuvers during the first year, descending to an altitude of 78 miles. This marks the lower boundary of the planet’s upper atmosphere.

MAVEN has sufficient fuel reserves on board to continue observations for more than a decade.

The spacecraft will function as an indispensible orbital relay by transmitting surface science data through the “Electra” from NASA’s ongoing Curiosity and Opportunity rovers as well as the planned 2020 rover.

Stay tuned here for continuing MAVEN and MOM news and my launch reports from on site at the Kennedy Space Center press center.

Ken Kremer

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Learn more about MAVEN, Mars rovers, Orion and more at Ken’s upcoming presentations

Nov 15-19: “MAVEN Mars Launch and Curiosity Explores Mars, Orion and NASA’s Future”, Kennedy Space Center Quality Inn, Titusville, FL, 8 PM

NASA’s MAVEN Mars orbiter, chief scientist Prof. Bruce Jakosky of CU-Boulder and Ken Kremer of Universe Today inside the clean room at the Kennedy Space Center on Sept. 27, 2013. MAVEN launches to Mars on Nov. 18, 2013 from Florida. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

NASA’s MAVEN Mars orbiter, chief scientist Prof. Bruce Jakosky of CU-Boulder and Ken Kremer of Universe Today inside the clean room at the Kennedy Space Center on Sept. 27, 2013. MAVEN launches to Mars on Nov. 18, 2013 from Florida. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

About 

Dr. Ken Kremer is a speaker, scientist, freelance science journalist (Princeton, NJ) and photographer whose articles, space exploration images and Mars mosaics have appeared in magazines, books, websites and calanders including Astronomy Picture of the Day, NBC, BBC, SPACE.com, Spaceflight Now and the covers of Aviation Week & Space Technology, Spaceflight and the Explorers Club magazines. Ken has presented at numerous educational institutions, civic & religious organizations, museums and astronomy clubs. Ken has reported first hand from the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral and NASA Wallops on over 40 launches including 8 shuttle launches. He lectures on both Human and Robotic spaceflight - www.kenkremer.com

IVAN3MAN_AT_LARGE October 29, 2013 at 4:58 AM

Deimos, not “Diemos”!

Jugar Jugar October 29, 2013 at 11:24 AM

Technology is quite advanced and can increasingly develop. That is why we always trust in NASA and government

Jimmy Horton October 29, 2013 at 8:16 AM

You migh trust NASA and the government, but I sure as hell do not. They are listening in on all of us. Trusting the goverment (a powerful bully) is being a sucker. This is not consipiracy theory anymore its a known fact. I do like the work NASA does, but when you get billions for your projects in a “democratic society”, you had better keep the public somewhat happy. My point: It’s their job to excite us.

jarradcvh059 October 29, 2013 at 3:42 PM

My Uncle Aiden got an almost
new cream Lincoln MKS Sedan by working part time off of a laptop. have a peek
here J­a­m­2­0­.­?­o­m

Aqua4U October 29, 2013 at 11:55 PM

Now I’m getting excited! Seems like it will be just a matter of time before we get a confirmation whether or not life exists on Mars.. hope so. THAT would surely open the ‘flood gates’ for further exploration… hopefully including a manned mission!

P.S. Good to see you there for us Ken! Thanks!

Ken Kremer October 30, 2013 at 3:54 AM

Thanks Aqua! Alas the budget cutters are rather powerful

sangos November 1, 2013 at 9:07 AM

There is hope for humanity and this is real collaboration between nations!

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