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Quest to the red planet

August 10, 2012

Following U.S, Russia, Europe, Japan and China, India will be the sixth country to take on a mission to Mars. The expedition planned for next year will put a satellite in an orbit around the red planet.

Eager to show her superpower status too, India’s orbiter which will study the climate, geology, origin, evolution and sustainability of life on the planet will be launched by an advanced rocket from ISRO – Indian Space Research Organization. “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. The total investment for the project is expected to be US$100 million. The mission if successful, will securely pin India’s space prowess ahead of China’s whose mission to Mars last year  called Yinghuo-1 wasn’t a success.

In November, last year, China made her attempt to launch the satellite Yinghuo-1 using a Russian rocket from Baikonur in Kazakhstan but its engines failed to provide the momentum to escape earth’s gravity. The satellite and the craft remained locked in earth’s orbit before crashing into the Pacific Ocean in January this year. For India So far, there have been 42 unmanned missions attempted to Mars, of which 21 have failed in the launch phase itself.

The planned mission follows India’s successful unmanned Chandrayaan mission to the Moon in 2008 that brought back the first-ever clinching evidence of the presence of water on Earth’s satellite. A team of 185 scientists from different units of the Indian Space Research Organisation will collaborate for this ambitious project. The Indian Mars orbiter, the DoS has said, is “derived from the Chandrayaan heritage” and takes into account the lessons learnt from that project. The Mars mission is expected to not only demonstrate India’s technological capability to reach Martian orbit but would also pave the way for future scientific exploratory missions.
The expedition to the Red planet gains importance even as Curiosity the American probe which successfully landed on Mars last Sunday sends pictures of its new home back to Earth. Space exploration and understanding what lies beyond has always intrigued the human mind. Is there life beyond Earth is a fundamental question that we’ve yet to solve. While India’s orbiting probe isn’t expected to return with stunning results, the launch will definitely be a big step in India’s space mission.
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