India's space agency may have flown solo for its first Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), but it won't have to for future projects. A mere six days after the Indian spacecraft Mangalyaan successfully inserted itself into Martian orbit, NASA has signed documents promising to collaborate with ISRO on future Mars and Earth observing missions.
While attending the International Astronautical Congress on Tuesday, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and K. Radhakrishnan, chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), signed two documents to launch a NASA-ISRO satellite mission to observe Earth and establish a pathway for future joint missions to explore Mars.
"The signing of these two documents reflects the strong commitment NASA and ISRO have to advancing science and improving life on Earth," Bolden said in a statement. "This partnership will yield tangible benefits to both our countries and the world."
This makes NASA one of the first to welcome India into what some may call the "Martian Space Club." While observatory and local orbital missions may traditionally not involve a great deal of international collaboration (at least pre-launch), Mars missions and beyond almost always seem to be joint projects between the world's leading space explorers.
NASA's 2020 Mars rover, for instance, has already been announced to boast a great host of instruments crafted by private and international parties. And the comet-chasing Rosetta spacecraft similarly plays host to dozens of international devices between it and its Philae lander.
Even in the case of ISRO's MOM mission, which was built and launched solo and boasts primarily Indian technologies, the data that the Mangalyaan will collect about the Red Planet's methane gas emissions will be shared internationally and was intended to complement other atmospheric data collected by NASA's MAVEN orbiter.
"NASA and Indian scientists have a long history of collaboration in space science," added 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."
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