Image Credit: Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO)
Last week was a busy time around Mars as two new spacecraft arrived to study the planet from orbit. On Sunday, September 21, NASA's MAVEN spacecraft entered Martian orbit to begin its mission of studying the planet's atmosphere, with an overall objective of understanding the atmosphere's history and how it changed over time. The most intriguing question these observations will try to answer is what happened to much of the water the planet apparently had earlier in its history. Continuing updates on the mission can be found at NASA's MAVEN homepage.
Two days later, MAVEN was joined by India's Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), which will also be used to study the Martian atmosphere and surface. The accomplishment affirms India's status as a leading scientific and technological nation. Continuing updates on this mission can be found at ISRO's MOM homepage.
Both missions join a small armada of Mars orbiters and surface rovers already studying the planet. Mars is a primary focus of the space efforts of several nations and of private entrepreneurs, especially Elon Musk, who plans to initiate efforts that will eventually lead to colonization of the Red Planet.