India and the US to team up for Mars exploration and Earth-observing missions

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Artist's concept of the NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar (NISAR) mission (Image: NASA)

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Last month, the US MAVEN space probe and the Indian MOM orbiter arrived at the planet Mars within days of one another. As part of a welcome to India as the newest interplanetary spacefaring nation, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and K. Radhakrishnan, chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), signed a pair of documents formally sealing agreements between the US and India for greater cooperation in the exploration of Mars and for a joint NASA-ISRO Earth observation mission later this decade.

The agreements were signed by the space agency heads in Toronto while attending the International Astronautical Congress. The first agreement sets up a NASA-ISRO Mars Working Group, which will meet once a year. Its task is to identify programs and scientific and technological goals that NASA and ISRO have in common for the exploration of Mars, as well as the possibility of future joint missions to the Red Planet. One example of this is potentially sharing observations and analysis from their MAVENand MOM space probes.

The second agreement commits the two countries to the NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar (NISAR) mission, which is scheduled to launch in 2020. This Earth exploration satellite will be used to measure changes to Earth’s land surface in order to study environmental impacts and movements of the crust, ice caps, and glaciers.

To do so, NISAR will be the first satellite to employ two different radar frequencies in the L-band and S-band. According to NASA, this will provide resolutions of less than a centimeter. Under Tuesday’s agreement, NASA will provide the L-band synthetic aperture radar (SAR), communications system, GPS units, recorder, and data subsystem, while ISRO will bring the spacecraft bus and S-band SAR, as well as carrying out the task of launching the satellite into orbit.

"NASA and Indian scientists have a long history of collaboration in space science," says John Grunsfeld, NASA associate administrator for science. "These new agreements between NASA and ISRO in Earth science and Mars exploration will significantly strengthen our ties and the science that we will be able to produce as a result."

Source: NASA

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