The US and India have signed an agreement that will bring the two nations’ space agencies together for future joint operations to Mars.
The pact – signed by leaders from NASA and the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) at the International Astronautical Congress in Canada – defines how the two agencies will work together on the NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar (NISAR) mission, due to launch in 2020. A satellite mission to observe Earth is also planned.
“The signing of these two documents reflects the strong commitment NASA and ISRO have to advancing science and improving life on Earth,” said NASA administrator Charles Bolden. “This partnership will yield tangible benefits to both our countries and the world.”
The agreement has been signed just a week after India’s inaugural mission to Mars, the Mangalyaan, entered the planet’s orbit after a 300-day, 670m-kilometre journey. The operation will allow India to study the martian atmosphere, search for methane gas and look for signs of life. Never before had a country entered the planet’s orbit at the first attempt and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi praised the scientists’ work, calling the mission an “historic achievement”.
Under the terms of the pact, representatives of NASA and ISRO will meet once a year to plan co-operative activities, including possible future missions to Mars.
“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,” added John Grunsfeld, NASA associate administrator for science.
Mars image via Shutterstock