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Life on MARS? India will find the answer soon

Last updated on: September 11, 2013 22:42 IST

Life on MARS? India will find the answer soon

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Vicky Nanjappa

India's Mars Orbiter Mission, which will look for scope of life on the red planet, will be a reality in either October or November as the Indian Space Research Organisation unveiled the mission on Wednesday.

The launch of the unmanned space craft is likely to take place at Sriharikota, and is expected to reach Mars in September, 2014.

The ambitious mission will cost Rs 450 crore, out of which Rs 150 crore has been spent for building the space craft in the last 12 months.

With inputs from PTI

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Photographs: Reuters

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The spacecraft will be launched with the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle from Sriharikota. Sources in ISRO say that they would ship the spacecraft to Sriharikota in a few days and then fix a date for the launch which could be anytime between mid-October and November.

The Mars Orbiter Mission seeks to reveal whether there is methane, considered a "precursor chemical" for life, on the Red Planet, key officials behind the ambitious venture said on Wednesday.

A methane sensor, one of the five payloads (scientific instruments) onboard the spacecraft, would look to detect the presence of the gas, MOM Project Director Arunan S said.

He said the sensor was aimed at understanding whether life existed on Mars or if it would have life in future.

"Methane is fundamentally base for life on any planet," he said.

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Image: Scientists at ISRO working on the Mars mission in Bangalore
Photographs: Courtesy: ISRO

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M Annadurai, Programme Director, IRS & SSS (Indian Remote Sensing & Small, Science and Student Satellites), said: "Most probably we will be able to answer whether there is presence of Methane. If it's there, yes; if it's not, not there. If it's available, where it's available".

After a media preview of the Mars orbiter at ISRO Satellite Centre in Bangalore, where it is being given final shape, officials of the space agency indicated that the aim is to launch the mission on October 21, weather permitting.

Once launched from the spaceport of Sriharikota, the spacecraft would go around the earth for 20-25 days before embarking on a 9-month voyage to Mars. The minimum life of the spacecraft around Mars is six months but it would certainly outlive it, as similar satellites orbited by other countries have sometimes lasted six-seven years, Arunan said.

Director of ISAC S K Shivakumar and Arunan defended the MOM, saying the thrust is on self-reliance and building technological base for future inter-planetary missions and there is nothing like undertaking the mission on our own, even though there have been similar ventures by other countries in the past.

India's MOM would look at Mars from a different perspective, Arunan said.

ISRO has addressed many challenges in the coming mission, particularly on communication, navigation, power and propulsion systems.

As there is a communication delay of 20 to 40 minutes, full-scale autonomy has been built into the satellite which means that in the event of contingency the spacecraft would take decisions on its own and put it on safe mode without a ground intervention. The ground segment then can diagnose the problem and correct it.

       


Image: A Martian rock illuminated by white LEDs is pictured in this NASA photo
Photographs: Reuters

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