Mars Mission: ISRO eyes November 2013 launch

Cabinet yet to approve the mission

In November 2013, the distance between Earth and mars will be 55 million km. It is the shortest possible distance between the two planets

India’s space agency is pushing hard to meet the November 2013 deadline to launch its landmark Mars orbiter.

In its budgetary allocations in March, the government had earmarked Rs 125 crore to the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) for the ambitious probe to the Red Planet. Though the Cabinet is yet to approve the mission, according to sources, the talks are in its final stages. A series of cabinet meetings are underway and approval may be granted any day soon. 

When contacted, ISRO’s press cell informed that the agency’s chairperson will hold a conference soon after approval is granted.
November’s special

ISRO is lobbying hard for November 2013 for a reason. Ajay Lele, research fellow specialising in space technology and security at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA), Delhi, says, “ISRO has been quite proactive about getting the approval to meet the deadline–and for a good reason.” The distance between the two planets will at a minimum during November next year, he explains. U R Rao, former ISRO chairperson, agrees. “It is true the 2013 window is when the two planets are going to get the closest.

After that this opportunity will not come until the beginning of 2016 or 2018. I wouldn't be surprised if other countries, too, plan to launch their missions at this time,” he says. The two planets can get as close as 55,000,000 km. This has certain advantages like less fuel and time required to complete the mission. In fact, NASA is also planning to launch a Mars probe in November 2013. Called the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution Mission, the probe will explore the planet’s upper atmosphere, ionosphere and interactions with Sun and solar wind.


Rao says India's mission will help study the Red Planet’s atmosphere. “Earth, Mars and Venus are relatively close to each other and similar in terms of size and shape, yet their atmospheric conditions are radically different. The probe will help us answer some of these differences,” he adds. He further says that such missions hold promise for future generations. “We're running out of fossil fuels and coal, and knowledge of other planets could pave the way for mining their resources in future,” he says.
The mission will also be a quantum leap for India in terms of distance travelled, adds Lele. “So far, India’s satellites have gone up to 36,000 km above the surface of Earth. Chandrayan-I, India's unmanned mission to moon, travelled up to 400,000 km.”

Only few countries like the US, Russia, Europe and China have managed to send missions to Mars. An endeavour of this nature will require a nationwide effort from space and physics scientists. When asked whether any preparations are under way at his institute, J N Goswami, director of Physical Research Laboratory, Ahmedabad, was tight-lipped. 

“We haven't received any word from the department of space on any such project,” he said. Goswami, however, indicated that as part of their routine lab work they are working on instrumentation that can be utilised for long-distance missions like the ones to Mars. “However, right now everything is at the level of the lab and it will take at least a year to convert it to technology that can be sent to space. If we get a go-ahead from the space agency, we will start work on it,” he says.


Mars rover finds water

Mars rover finds water

Images sent by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter show dark streaks up to four metres wide running down the sides of some slopes on the planet. Scientists say this is strong evidence of the presence of liquid water. Shane Byrne, professor of planetary sciences at the University of Arizona in the US, is part of the team studying Mars. He speaks to Dinsa Sachan about the findings. Excerpts:

Landing on the red planet

The world's powers celebrated Christmas 2003 in style: they sent robotic geologists to the red planet Mars, Earth's uninviting and hostile neighbour. Two major space-faring powers, the European Union and the US, extended their race for space supremacy to Mars with their spacecraft landing on the planet within 10 days of each other

Landing on the red planet

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  • It's rather ignorant to claim

    It's rather ignorant to claim that other planets can be mined for coal, etc, because the cost of extraction and transport is too high. It would probably take more energy to bring these things back to Earth, than one could usefully get out of these materials.

    Posted by: Anonymous | 3 years ago | Reply
  • Many countries are facing

    Many countries are facing economic problems - evident on stories on Physics World, Nature, Physics Today etc. India is not exception and so - as a citizen - I do not think that sufficient attention has been given, by political leaders, to economic problems before initiating big and costly projects. In addition, let me add the point of physics / science teaching also - because that also needs sincere attention and evolving an effective solution before embarking on big missions. Let me mention three stories.

    1)Indian science in need of overhaul/KS Jayaraman/ Nature/06 January 2012. 2)Changes and challenges: Physics in India/Toni Feder/Physics Today/December 2011 and my comment of 17 Dec. 3) NASA faces dearth of mission leaders / Nature / 05 July 2011

    In view of above and relevant facts, I do not think ISRO / related organizations will have adequate man-power to run the projects. Therefore, I am opposing the Mars mission because of educational problems also.

    Posted by: Anonymous | 3 years ago | Reply
  • Interestinggggggggggggggggggg


    Posted by: Anonymous | 2 years ago | Reply
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