India plans to launch Mars mission by October



Indian space scientists' tryst with Mars will begin with launch of a probe in October to explore the red planet's atmosphere and search for life-sustaining elements, a top official said Friday.

"We are trying hard and by mid-October we are expecting to launch the Mars mission," said J.N. Goswami, who is in-charge of the Mars mission at Physical Research Laboratory (PRL), a part of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).

Speaking on the sidelines of the Indian Science Congress here, Goswami said the mission is yet to get an official name.

The Rs.470-crore mission will demonstrate India's capability to launch a spacecraft on a 55 million km journey from the Earth and look for life-sustaining elements from a 500-km altitude over the Martian surface.

"The mission has a very specific science objective as we want to study the atmosphere of Mars. This mission will explore things which have not been done previously by other countries," said Goswami, director of the Ahmedabad based PRL.

He said that proto flight model has been done and flight model should be developed by March this year.

ISRO plans to use a high-end rocket (PSLV-XL) to launch the 1.4-tonne Martian spacecraft from the Sriharikota spaceport, about 80 km northeast of Chennai, with five instruments to study various aspects of the red planet.

"We have to ensure that the mission launch happens by the targeted slot and if we miss it, we won't get a slot before 2016," he said.

The Mars mission will allow India to join the elite club of five nations - the US, Russia, Europe, China and Japan - which have launched similar missions in the past.

As the fourth planet from the sun, second nearest to the Earth, Mars is terrestrial with breath-taking valleys, deserts, craters and volcanoes in a thin atmosphere.

Named after the Roman god of war, the red planet has many similarities with the Earth like the rotation period and seasonal cycles.

India has been working to expand its space programme.

In 2008, it successfully launched Chandrayaan-1, an unmanned orbiter to the Moon. The mission was instrumental in finding that water exists on the lunar surface.

Asked about the Chandrayaan-2 lunar mission, Goswami said: "It is a collaborative mission with the Russian Federal Space Agency. It includes a lunar orbiter and a lunar rover to be made by ISRO centres and a lander built by the Russian space agency."

The Chandrayaan-2 lunar mission, which was slated in 2013, is delayed as India is awaiting proposal on a lander from Russia. - IANS