Scientists to search Martian atmosphere for signs of life

    In this artist concept provided by NASA

    In this artist concept provided by NASA

    NASA’s latest mission to the Red Planet focuses on water vapor in the outer atmosphere.

    This week was a big one for the Red Planet. Nearly simultaneously, American and Indian missions arrived in Mars’ orbit to conduct various scientific experiments. India’s Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) was the nation’s first attempt at sending a spacecraft to our nearest neighboring planet, and MOM’s arrival on Tuesday night was celebrated by millions on the subcontinent. With a mere $74 million price tag, the mission is also an economic success.

    The U.S. mission, titled Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN), came at a higher cost—nearly nine times that of MOM—but where the Indian mission was largely about reaching the planet, MAVEN is there to do some serious science. For the next year, it will search the planet’s outer atmosphere for signs of water and clues to whether it once sustained life.

    NASA mission planner Joe Guinn joins us this week to discuss the challenges behind embarking on Martian missions.

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