The Skies of Mars Are Getting Busy

Mars Express, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, and Mars Odyssey are being joined by a pair of probes this week.  There will be five active orbiters around Mars.  That’s certainly a new record.

MAVEN concept art, NASA.
MAVEN concept art, NASA.

Already arrived is NASA’s MAVEN, short for Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution. It arrived at Mars on September 22nd, and has assumed orbit.  It will study the atmosphere and try to determine where the water had gone.  What’s interesting is that it’ll study how quickly the atmosphere is being stripped away by solar winds, so they may be able to extrapolate the thickness of the atmosphere billions of years ago, as well as see how much water there was.

Mars Orbiter Mission artist concept, by Nesnad for Wikipedia.
Mars Orbiter Mission artist concept, by Nesnad for Wikipedia.

The second probe arriving at Mars is the Indian Space Research Organisation’s Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), or Mangalyaan. It arrives at Mars today! This mission is exciting not because of what it will do, as much of it is pretty simple compared to what NASA and ESA orbiters have done, but it is the first time India has sent a probe to another planet.  Seeing other countries with successful interplanetary missions is very encouraging.  Apart from testing the technology, which is the primary mission, it also has scientific secondary objectives, including studying the mineralogy, morphology, and atmosphere.  This should be interesting.

Pretty busy at Mars now, isn’t it?  Which mission are you interested in?