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Satellites revolving around the Red planet – Part two

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Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO)

A multipurpose spacecraft launched by NASA (in 2005) designed to conduct reconnaissance and exploration of Mars from orbit. MRO contains a host of scientific instruments such as cameras, spectrometers, and radar, which are used to analyze the landforms, stratigraphy, minerals, and ice of Mars. It paves the way for future spacecraft by monitoring Mars’ daily weather and surface conditions, studying potential landing sites, and hosting a new telecommunications system.

One of the mission’s main goals is to map the Martian landscape with its high-resolution cameras in order to choose landing sites for future surface missions. The MRO played an important role in choosing the landing site of the Phoenix Lander, which explored the Martian Arctic in Green Valley.

Curiosity (Rover)

Curiosity is a car-sized robotic rover exploring Gale Crater on Mars as part of NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory mission. It was launched from Cape Canaveral on November 26, 2011 and landed on Aeolis Palus in Gale Crater on Mars on August 6, 2012.

The rover’s goals include: investigation of the Martian climate and geology; assessment of whether the selected field site inside Gale Crater has ever offered environmental conditions favorable for microbial life, including investigation of the role of water; and planetary habitability studies in preparation for future human exploration.

Curiosity’s design will serve as the basis for a planned Mars 2020 rover mission.

MAVEN

Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) is a space probe designed and launched by NASA to study the Martian atmosphere while orbiting Mars. Mission goals include determining how the Martian atmosphere and water, presumed to have once been substantial, were lost over time.

MAVEN was successfully launched aboard an Atlas V launch vehicle at the beginning of the first launch window on November 18, 2013.On September 22, 2014, MAVEN reached Mars and was inserted into an areocentric elliptic orbit 6,200 km by 150 km above the planet’s surface.

The MAVEN mission has four primary scientific objectives:

  1. Determine the role that loss of volatiles to space from the Martian atmosphere has played through time.
  2. Determine the current state of the upper atmosphere, ionosphere, and interactions with the solar wind.
  3. Determine the current rates of escape of neutral gases and ions to space and the processes controlling them.
  4. Determine the ratios of stable isotopes in the Martian atmosphere.

Mangalyaan

The Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), also called Mangalyaan “Mars-craft”, is a Mars orbiter launched into Earth orbit on 5 November 2013 by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). It was successfully inserted into Mars orbit on 24 September 2014, making India the first Asian nation to send a satellite into Mars orbit, and the first nation in the world to do so on its first attempt. It is India’s first interplanetary mission and ISRO has become the fourth space agency to reach Mars, after the Soviet space program, NASA, and the European Space Agency.

The objective is to explore Mars’ surface features, morphology, mineralogy and Martian atmosphere using indigenous scientific instruments.

Mangalyaan’s First Image of Mars. Source ISRO