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  • When you think of space exploration, NASA or the European Space Agency probably leap to mind.

  • But a lot of incredible missions come from other parts of the world, too.

  • Like, Japan's JAXA returned the first samples from an asteroid, and Russia's Roscosmos

  • has a flawless record delivering astronauts to the International Space Station.

  • One country you may not have thought of is India, but the Indian Space Research Organisation,

  • or ISRO, is on its way to becoming a leader in space explorationand they're just getting started.

  • When it comes to launching spacecraft, ISRO has a great track record.

  • Back in February, they made global headlines when a single Indian rocket launched 104 satellites

  • — a new record.

  • Most were shoebox-sized cubesats, but the rocket successfully put them all on the right

  • paths, one every few secondsall while traveling at more than 27,000 kilometers per hour!

  • Thanks to their growing reputation, these satellites came from all over the world, including

  • the U.S., Switzerland, Israel, and Kazakhstan.

  • In 2008, ISRO also sent their first spacecraft to the Moon, where it did some basic science

  • and proved their technology worked.

  • But they truly arrived on the world space scene in 2014, when their Mars Orbiter Mission

  • entered orbit aroundyou guessed it! — Mars.

  • That put them in a tiny club of interplanetary nations alongside Russia, the U.S., and the

  • European Union.

  • And on top of that, ISRO were the only ones to get into Mars orbit successfully on their first try!

  • That by itself is a real accomplishment, but ISRO also had big plans to collaborate with

  • NASA's MAVEN spacecraft.

  • MAVEN showed up at Mars at about the same time, and both orbiters were tasked with studying

  • the thin Martian atmosphere.

  • While MAVEN's orbit was designed to skim near the planet, the orbit for the ISRO mission

  • could take the spacecraft more than 500 times farther away, allowing researchers to piece

  • together a complete view of the atmosphere.

  • The Mars Orbiter Mission even contained a key piece of technology NASA's satellite

  • didn't have: a methane detector.

  • Here on Earth, methane is primarily created from lifelike farting and burping cows

  • and with ISRO's methane detector, researchers hoped to map the global distribution of the

  • gas all around Mars.

  • At least, that was the plan.

  • Unfortunately, because just getting to Mars is such a challenge, ISRO considered the whole

  • mission a so-calledtechnology demonstration”.

  • So most of their efforts went into things like interplanetary communicationnot scientific instruments.

  • Some of their equipment worked great, but things probably didn't turn out so well

  • for the methane detector.

  • As of 2016, the mission hadn't found any methane in the Martian atmosphere.

  • But since other missions, like Curiosity, have found trace amounts of it, that could

  • mean the ISRO orbiter just wasn't sensitive enough, or that there was another issue.

  • Now, ISRO is developing a much more capable Martian satellite, so they could learn a lot

  • more in the 2020s.

  • And the ESA and Roscosmos's Trace Gas Orbiter will be investigating the methane situation

  • in the meantime.

  • Still, ISRO's first Mars mission was a success in a lot of way, and the organization is now

  • ready for even more exploration.

  • And until then, they're also making major contributions to astronomy, with a space telescope

  • called AstroSat that launched in 2015.

  • You can think of AstroSat kind of like a mash-up of NASA's Hubble Space Telescope and Chandra

  • X-Ray Observatory.

  • It's way smaller than either of those, but can still accomplish something really cool:

  • observing a single astronomical source in a whole bunch of wavelengths at once!

  • Astronomical sourceis just fancy science-talk for something in space that emits, well, anything.

  • In this case, AstroSat can find something we see in the sky and study it in visible,

  • ultraviolet, and X-ray lightall at the same time!

  • To do something like that with Hubble and Chandra would require tons of coordination,

  • but AstroSat makes it happen for everything it looks at.

  • And earlier this year it contributed behind the scenes to a story you probably heard a lot about.

  • This June, LIGO detected gravitational waves, or ripples in space-time caused by merging

  • black holes, for only the third time.

  • And a day after they detected them, an observatory in Hawaii saw a flash in the very same part

  • of the sky.

  • At first, scientists thought this flash was probably the afterglow of the merging black

  • holesbut it wasn't.

  • Follow-up observations from AstroSat helped determine that a distant gamma ray burstprobably

  • from a supernovahad just happened to appear in the same part of the sky at almost

  • the exact same time.

  • Talk about astronomical odds, am I right?

  • Without AstroSat, it probably would have been a lot harder to figure out what that flash was.

  • Squishing two space telescopes into one is just one example of how ISRO puts its own

  • unique twist on space exploration, and they're not slowing down anytime soon.

  • In addition to their planned Mars mission, ISRO is getting ready to land on the Moon,

  • and is working on missions to explore Venus, the Sun, and even Jupiter.

  • It's an ambitious plan, but they're off to a great start and, when it comes to exploring

  • space, it's always the more, the merrier!

  • Thanks for watching this episode of SciShow Space, and special thanks to our patrons on

  • Patreon for making it happen!

  • If you'd like to support the show, you can go to patreon.com/scishow.

When you think of space exploration, NASA or the European Space Agency probably leap to mind.

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B1 space methane orbiter mission exploration spacecraft

The Coolest Missions from India's Space Program

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    林宜悉 posted on 2020/04/04
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