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According to American researchers, a fundamental design flaw in the primary scientific instrument on India’s Mangalyaan Mars orbiter prevents it from carrying out its mission of measuring the methane in the Martian atmosphere.
“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.
They are re-purposing the instrument to measure the reflected sunlight coming off the Martian surface, useful data to be sure but hardly worth an entire space mission.