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Mars Mission to put India on interplanetary orbit

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Mars - with water-ice clouds, polar ice, polar regions, and geological features

Mars – with water-ice clouds, polar ice, polar regions, and geological features (Image Courtesy- NASA)

The forthcoming Mars mission will demonstrate India’s prowess in space technology and conduct meaningful experiments to explore signs of life, study Martian environment and take pictures of the red planet. ISRO Chief K. Radhakrishnan scoffed at criticism of the huge cost involved in the forthcoming voyage and said it is not to show off pride.

“It’s not for pride because the exploration of Mars has its own scientific value and possibly a future habitat which people are talking about…. May be 20 years…30 years from now… it’s possible,” said the ISRO Chief referring to the colonization angle.

India’s Mars satellite is scheduled to launch later this year on board Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-XL). The spacecraft will carry five instruments like Methane Sensors, MARS Colour Camera, and TIR imaging spectrometer, totaling a mass of 15 kg, to study Martin surface composition, detect presence of Methane and study its upper atmosphere and mineralogy.

“We want to look at environment of Mars for various elements like Deuterium-Hydrogen ratio. We also want to look at other constituents – neutral constituents,” Radhakrishnan added.

Curiosity Mars Rover Passes Kilometer of Driving (Image Courtesy-NASA)

Curiosity Mars Rover Passes Kilometer of Driving (Image Courtesy-NASA)

The 1350 kg. spacecraft is planned to enter into a 372 km x 80,000 km elliptical orbit around Mars by September 2014, after cruising in deep space for about 10 months using its own propulsion system.

Mars Orbiter Mission is ISRO’s first interplanetary mission, with a spacecraft designed to orbit Mars in an elliptical orbit and it is India’s challenging technological mission out of the earth’s gravitational field.

“If we succeed, it positions India into group of countries who will have the ability to look at Mars,” said the ISRO Chief. India will be the sixth country to launch a mission to Mars after the US, Russia, Europe, Japan and China.

The Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle PSLV will inject the spacecraft from Sriharikota in the 250 x 23000 km orbit.

Radhakrishnan said a number of technological challenges need to be negotiated for a successful Mars mission.

“Most important thing is we must have the insertion of this spacecraft in the Martian orbit”, he said.

The Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) (Image Courtesy - NASA)

The Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) (Image Courtesy – NASA)

The major demands will be critical mission operations and stringent requirement on propulsion, communications and other bus systems of the spacecraft. The primary driving technological objective of the mission is to design and realize a spacecraft with a capability to reach Mars (Martian Transfer Trajectory), and to orbit around Mars (Mars Orbit Insertion) which will take about nine months time. Yet another challenge before ISRO engineers and scientists is to realize deep space mission planning and communication management at a distance of nearly 400 million kms.

The mission would help ISRO understand the possible existence of life and future colonization of Mars, which has most resemblance to earth.

Mars Mission would also see Indo-US collaboration in the field of space technology. NASA is providing deep space navigation and tracking support services.  India and the US had signed a framework agreement in 2008 establishing the terms for cooperation between ISRO and NASA in the exploration and use of outer space for peaceful purposes.

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