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Isro, NASA to collaborate on Mars exploration

The Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) has joined hands with NASA to launch a join satellite mission to observe the Earth.

The NASA-Isro Synthetic Aperature Radar (NISAR) mission will be launched in 2020 and will take global measurements to help determine the causes and consequences of land surface changes on Earth.

On the sidelines of the International Astronautical Congress, Isro Chairman K Radhakrishnan and NASA Administrator Charles Bolden also signed a charter to establish a NASA-Isro Mars working group for enhanced cooperation between the two countries in Mars exploration.

“The signing of these two documents reflects the strong commitment NASA and Isro have to advancing science and improving life on Earth. This partnership will yield tangible benefits to both our countries and the world,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said in a statement.

The joint Mars working group will try to identify and implement scientific, programmatic and technological goals that NASA and Isro have in common. One of the working group’s objectives will be to explore potential coordinated observations and science analysis between MAVEN and MOM, as well as other current and future Mars missions.

Both the agencies sent spacecrafts to Mars recently. NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft arrived on Mars on 21 September, 2014. Isro’s Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) was placed in orbit around Mars on 24 September, 2014.

The Nisar mission on the other hand will make global measurements of the causes and consequences of a variety of land surface changes on Earth. It will help understand key impact of climate change and advance our knowledge of natural hazards.

NISAR will be the first satellite mission to use two different radar frequencies (L-band and S-band) to measure changes in our planet’s surface less than a centimeter across. This allows the mission to observe a wide range of changes, from the flow rates of glaciers and ice sheets to the dynamics of earthquakes and volcanoes.

Under the terms of the new agreement, NASA will provide the mission’s L-band synthetic aperture radar (SAR), a high-rate communication subsystem for science data, GPS receivers, a solid state recorder, and a payload data subsystem. Isro will provide the spacecraft bus, an S-band SAR, and the launch vehicle and associated launch services.

Earlier collaborations

NASA and Isro have been cooperating under the terms of a framework agreement signed in 2008. This cooperation includes a variety of activities in space sciences such as two NASA payloads — the Mini-Synthetic Aperture Radar (Mini-SAR) and the Moon Mineralogy Mapper — were on Isro’s Chandrayaan-1 mission to the Moon in 2008. 

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