More than two years after its pioneering Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) reached the red planet, the Indian Space Research Organization has yet to release highly anticipated measurements of atmospheric methane, a gas which on Earth is strongly tied to life.
Seeker has learned that the data will never come, due to a flaw in the sensor design.
"They did not design this properly for the detection of methane on Mars," Michael Mumma, senior scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, told Seeker.
In 2003, Mumma led a team that made the first definitive measurements of methane on Mars using an infrared telescope in Hawaii. The methane, which appeared in plumes over specific regions of Mars, reached a maximum density of about 60 parts per billion.
"The (MOM) instrument is beautifully engineered, but not for the methane task. It has other value, but unfortunately they will not be able to provide measurements of methane at the levels needed to sample even the plumes we saw," Mumma said.
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