NASA's MAVEN races India's MOM to Mars

Science -

The Indian Space Research Organization hopes their first craft to Mars will give NASA a run for its money.

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Copyright 2014 Reuters
Copyright 2014 Reuters

Satish Dhawan Space Centre

Even though MOM (Mars Orbiter Mission) launched 13 days after NASA's MAVEN, it is due to land on the Red Planet only three days later. By Dec. 2 it had left the Earth's sphere of influence, becoming the furthest object sent into space by India.

ISRO claims that MOM has superior landing technology to MAVEN. Whereas MAVEN will use its launch craft to head directly to Mars' surface, MOM will employ a separate liquid engine to maneuver itself before heading to the surface. This will give it two attempts to land, whereas MAVEN will have just one.

Cape Canaveral, FL

The MAVEN, short for Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN, launched via the unmanned Atlas V rocket at 1:28pm local time. The probe will spend 10 months traveling to Mars and should enter orbit in Sept. 2014. It will then explore the planet's atmosphere.

"I learned this morning that NASA has analyzed the MAVEN mission relative to the Anti-Deficiency Act and determined that it meets the requirements allowing an emergency exception." Bruce Jakosky, MAVEN mission lead scientist

NASA on Oct. 3 gave the MAVEN mission an exemption to continue despite the partial U.S. government shutdown, which has closed down much of NASA.

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MAVEN arrived at the Kennedy Space Center in August to prepare for the $671 million mission's launch. Had NASA not given the exemption, the team could have delayed only until mid-Dec. before it would have missed the launch window. Copyright 2014 Reuters

MAVEN arrived at the Kennedy Space Center in August to prepare for the $671 million mission's launch. Had NASA not given the exemption, the team could have delayed only until mid-Dec. before it would have missed the launch window.

At the end of 2012, NASA announced a $2 billion Mars rover mission for 2020. To keep costs down, NASA's seventh rover will be built using spare parts from Curiosity. The mission will also employ the same novel landing system employed by the Curiosity mission.

NASA on Sept. 4 said that the number of possible landing sites on Mars for the InSight lander has been narrowed to four. NASA said the main criteria for the sites are safety and places where the ground is penetrable. The InSight mission is scheduled for 2016.

"To go and look for simple organisms, or not-so-simple organisms, that are living within [Mars' current] toxic, harsh environment, we just think is a foolish investment of the technology at this time." John Mustard, Brown University geologist

Mustard, the chair of a scientific advisory team for the 2020 mission, said on July 9 that his group is asking NASA to focus on finding signs of ancient life on Mars — when conditions may have been more hospitable to life as we know it — instead of looking for proof of current lifeforms.

Curiosity's mission was originally scheduled to last two years, but NASA now says it will be active as long as possible. If it remains undamaged, Curiosity's battery could work for decades. CC BY-ND Flickr

Curiosity's mission was originally scheduled to last two years, but NASA now says it will be active as long as possible. If it remains undamaged, Curiosity's battery could work for decades.

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Dennis Tito, the world's first "space tourist," became the latest to announce a private manned mission to Mars in late Feb. While Tito's project reportedly doesn't involve a surface mission, SpaceX founder Elon Musk and a Netherlands-based nonprofit called Mars One are pushing for colonies on Mars.

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