Wednesday, August 15, 2012

From the Red Fort to the Red Planet: India's Mars Mission announced by PM

India is all set to visit distant Mars, riding on Mangalyaan. Today, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced India's maiden mission to the Red Planet from the ramparts of the Red Fort while addressing the nation on Independence Day.

The Indian Space Research Organisation or ISRO is set to launch a small unmanned satellite to Mars as early as November next year which might join NASA's Curiosity rover in exploring the Red Planet.

"Recently the Cabinet has approved the Mars Orbiter Mission. Under this Mission, our spaceship will go near Mars and collect important scientific information. This spaceship to Mars will be a huge step for us in the area of science and technology," Dr Singh said in his speech today.

The Rs. 450-crore mission will be launched from Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh using the work horse rocket, the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle or PSLV, which has had 21 consecutively successful flights and also sent the moon probe.

The journey from Earth to mars will take up to 11 months after which the Orbiter Spaceship will be placed in a highly elliptical orbit of 500 by 80,000 km around Mars.

The over 1300-kg satellite will have a provision for carrying nearly 25 kg of scientific payloads on board, which will study the Martian atmosphere, possibly look for organic molecules to understand its geology and chemistry.

Top ISRO officials say 'this is a technology demonstration project, a mission that will announce to the world India has the capability to reach as far away as Mars!' So some say this is now the start of an Asian space race to reach Mars since China's first mission failed and India seeks to beat it.

In all, there have been about 40 missions to Mars with just about half of them being successful with attempts made by USA, Russia, France, Europe and China. The most recent of these was the NASA's Curiosity rover which reached Mars on August 6.

From the Red Fort to the Red Planet, this ambitious mission that could well be the start of a new Asian space race. And with India and China racing to Mars, who will get there first?