East meets west in space: India and US collaborate on Mars missions

 
Sarah Spickernell
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The two countries will work together on Mars (Source: Getty)
India and the US have signed an agreement to co-operate on Mars as well as join forces to conduct Earth-related studies from space.
Last week, both countries managed to successfully put satellites into orbit around Mars. First came Nasa's MAVEN satellite, followed by India's Mangalyaan spacecraft just two days later. Both are going to investigate the atmosphere around the red planet.
The frugality with which India managed to conduct its mission impressed the whole space industry. It cost just $74m to put Mangalyaan into orbit – a considerably smaller sum than similar missions carried out by other countries. The European Space Agency's 2003 Mars Express Orbiter mission, for example, cost over four times more at $386m.
Not only that, but India became the first country ever to successfully put its satellite into orbit on its first attempt. It is not surprising, therefore, that a lucrative space deal with the US followed directly on from this.
A charter for future collaboration was signed by US President Barack Obama and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi this week at the 65th International Astronautical Congress in Toronto. The agreement sets up a working group to explore possible ways for the two missions to share their discoveries.
The new deal isn't just about Mars, either - Nasa and the Indian Space Research Organisation will work together on Earth-related missions in the future. They have already agreed to embark on a joint Nasa-Isro Synthetic Aperture Radar mission (NISAR) in 2021. This will involve a joint radar spacecraft studying land change on Earth.
A statement released by the White House said the two countries “also intend to start a new dialogue on maintaining long-term security and sustainability of the outer space environment, including space situational awareness and collision avoidance in outer space”.

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