News From Space
September 12, 2014 • 9:05AM

NASA and India Are Discussing Setting up a Joint Mars Working Group

NASA's head of planetary science, Jim Green, stated at a Congressional hearing Wednesday, that prior to Indian Prime Minister Modi's visit to Washington later this month, there will be discussions to establish a Joint Mars Working Group, to coordinate the data from the American and Indian Mars missions which arrive within two days of each at the end of September. On the U.S. side, the group would be under the auspices of the State Department's US-India Civil Space Joint Working Group, and implemented by NASA, with India's Space Research Organization (ISRO).

India's Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) craft is closing in on the red planet, as is NASA's MAVEN spacecraft. MAVEN will focus on changes in Mars' atmosphere, and MOM will study the atmosphere, mineralogy, and surface features of Mars. "With multiple data sets being collected, NASA and ISRO will have a wealth of information to help solve mysteries regarding the Mars atmosphere," Jim Green told Representatives at the hearing.

With two NASA orbiters, a European orbiter, and two NASA Mars rovers already there, it is becoming increasingly important to coordinate missions to Mars, not only for traffic management, but to avoid duplication of effort and resources, and in order to increase the effectiveness of each mission.

International Astronaut Meet Hears China's Ambitious Space Plans

During the annual meeting of the Association of Space Explorers, being held this week in Beijing, the nearly 100 astronauts and cosmonauts from 18 countries attending the meeting were presented with the timeline of China's plans for manned space exploration. China's first man in space, Yang Liwei, reported: "We are going to launch the space lab, Tiangong-2, in 2016, and then we will launch Shenzhou-11 [with a crew, to dock with it], and then, the Tianzhou-1 [unmanned] cargo spaceship to dock with the space lab." The new cargo craft will be carrying out its first test mission. Space analyst Morris Jones reports that the Tianzhou cargo craft is larger than the Tiangong module it will dock with, which would indicate that it will also be used at the end of the decade for the large space station.

Launching and operating these three systems together—the Tiangong lab module, the manned Shenzhou craft to deliver crew, and the Tianzhou cargo ship to bring supplies—are the dress rehearsal for China's planned full-sized, long-duration space station.

China-Italy Cooperation on Space-Based Earthquake Monitoring

The Chinese and Italian space agencies will hold a workshop this November which includes a project for space-based earthquake monitoring. The announcement by the China National Space Administration (CNSA) refers to a "Lithosphere-Atmosphere-Ionosphere Coupling Mechanism," which is the theory of Dmitri Pulinets.

Cooperation between Italy and China on earthquake monitoring was initiated through a memorandum of understanding signed in 2013 by the Italian Space Agency (ASI) and the CNSA. On the Italian side, ASI is working in partnership with the National Institute of Nuclear Physics, several universities, and the National Institute of Geology and Volcanology (INGV). Italy has a considerable experience on earthquake research and is on the forefront of studying earthquake precursors.

Last July 21-22, a large delegation from the Chinese space agency, led by its administrator, Chen Qiufa, visited Rome, where they "formally confirmed the mutual commitment to strengthen the bilateral cooperation in the space sector in a long-term strategic vision, with the signing of a letter of intent establishing a specific Committee: the Joint Space Cooperation Committee (JSCC), responsible for identifying every possible area of bilateral cooperation," ASI reported at that time.

"The JSCC, chaired by the heads of the two agencies and composed of their representatives, will evaluate the opportunity for partners to collaborate in the analysis and exchange of satellite data for environmental monitoring and for the prevention of natural disasters, in the study of polarization phenomena of celestial bodies and X Ray Timing and monitoring of gravity. The committee will also be responsible for promoting the cooperation between the two countries for research on dark matter, cosmic radiation, and the robotics and astrophysics fields.

"The JSCC, among others, will consider a proposal to establish a joint space science and technology laboratory through the support of universities and research institutes. The meeting follows the signing of the Framework Agreement between ASI and CNSA signed on November 23, 2011 in Beijing."