|Image taken by NASA's Curiosity|
On 66th anniversary of India's independence from colonial rule, India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced from the ramparts of Red Fort a mission to the Red Planet.
(ISRO) Indian Space Research Organization, is set to launch a Mars Probe (Mangalyaan) by November 2013. The over 1300-kg satellite will have a provision for carrying nearly 25 kg of scientific payloads on board. ISRO suggests that the tentative objectives of the mission will be to focus on remotely assessing "life, climate, geology, origin and evolution and sustainability of life on the planet".
One of the most reliable launch vehicle in the world which has had 21 consecutively successful flights, PSLV (Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle) will be used to launch this probe from Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh. India's moon probe Chandrayaan was also launched by this same vehicle.
The voyage from Earth to Mars will take nearly eleven months after which the Orbiter Spaceship will be placed in a highly elliptical orbit of 500 by 80,000 km around Mars.
"This is technology demonstration project, a mission that will announce to the world India has the capability to reach as far away as Mars," an Isro official said.
|Image taken by NASA's Phoenix lander|
Since 1960, there have been 44 missions to Mars with just about half of them being successful; attempts have been made by the former USSR and Russia, the US, Europe, Japan and China. The Rs. 450 Crore mission, if successful, will place India among the group of three nations (US, Russia and European Space Agnecy) who have successfully reached Mars orbit. Japan, and China had failed in their attempt.
This mission will be India's second space exploration mission outside the Earth's orbit. First such mission was in November 2008, when India's successful Moon probe (Chandrayaan - 1) made a historical discovery of water on the Moon. The World has high hopes with India that it will come up with something new with the Mars mission as well.
|Sunset on Mars|
Domestic and International criticism
Many international as well as domestic critics have censured this development saying 'India has more serious and complex problems in the country which it should check first before competing with the developed world in the space race'. India has a high illiteracy and poverty rate and many social and healthcare issues which is a serious stumbling block on the growth path.
The above criticism sounds justified and canonical, unless we see the bigger picture. India's moon mission and the coming Mars mission are not only scientific missions, but also technology demonstration missions. The mission, if successful, will help India claim ascendancy in space exploration. India's projection of progress will attract attention and appreciation from various organizations around the world which will bring more business to the commercial arm of ISRO, Antrix Corporation Limited.
Antrix is responsible for providing launch service, mission support service and various remote sensing and space related data to clients all over the world. ISRO has launched satellites of various countries like Germany, Israel, Belgium, Indonesia, etc. More technology demonstration missions means more clients which brings a lot of income to the Department of Space. This money is utilized in funcding various research projects, technology development and launching of nation supporting satellites like INSAT, IRS, Tele Medicine, EDUSAT and military and spy satellites.
Also 450 crore is not much amount for India for a mission. It is a no joke, that an Indian politician himself alone can support this mission from his pocket. Thanks to corruption, although availability of such generous politicians is doubtful!
Asia's Race to the Mars
During late 50s and 60s, Soviet Union and USA used to compete to earn some of the 'world's first' records in Space technology. Today the same is happening in Asia. Although Japan and China are ahead of India in space technology by few years, India has a chance this time to beat Japan and China in the race to reach Mars first.
Japan and China, both have made an attempt to reach the Red Planet, but eventually both the eastern economic giants had to face failure.
Japanese probe Nozomi ("Wish" or "Hope" in Japanese) was planned as a Mars-orbiting aeronomy probe, launched on July 4, 1998. The operation was terminated on December 31, 2003 as it was unable to achieve Mars orbit due to electrical failures.
Chinese Yinghuo-1, was a Mars-exploration space probe launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, on 8 November 2011, along with the Russian Fobos-Grunt sample return spacecraft, which was intended to visit Mars' moon Phobos. Shortly after launch in order to depart Earth's orbit, Fobos-Grunt was expected to perform two burns. Unfortunately, these burns did not take place, which left both the probes stranded in the Earth's orbit. Chinese state media quickly reported the probe as 'lost' on 17 November 2011. Later, after two month both the probes Yinghuo-1 and Fobos-Grunt underwent a destructive re-entry on 15 January 2012, and disintegrated over the Pacific Ocean.
India's Second Moon mission
After the successful Chandrayaan - 1 mission, India is all set to send another mission to moon with a rover. The mission was proposed to be launched in 2014 but has been delayed by another two years and will be launched by 2016. This mission includes a lunar orbiter and a lunar rover made in India as well as one lander built by Russia. Prime responsibility of the mission will be on India's hand and will be launched by India's Geo Synchronous Launch Vehicle (GSLV). According to ISRO, this mission will use and test various new technologies and conduct 'new' experiments. The wheeled rover will move on the lunar surface and will pick up soil or rock samples for on-site chemical analysis. The data will be sent to Earth through the Chandrayaan-2 orbiter.
Due to recent failure of GSLV and Russia's Phobos Grunt last year, the mission has been delayed. Design and payload has been finalized, the two nations are now awaiting the completion of the Russian lander.
Please share and join the discussion on facebook by clicking the "Like" below.