And now, India plans mission to Mars after 2015 (Lead)

August 31st, 2009 - 11:38 pm ICT by IANS  

ISRO Bangalore, Aug 31 (IANS) India will embark on an unmanned mission to Mars after 2015 to explore the red planet in quest of its space ambitions, a senior space official said Monday.
Clarifying the statement made by Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) chairman G. Madhavan Nair at Panaji earlier in the day on the Mars mission, the space official said such a mission was not feasible before 2015 as the space agency will be pre-occupied with its second lunar mission (Chandrayaan-2) in 2013 and a manned mission to space by 2015.

“We plan to undertake missions to Mars and other planets as part of our long-term space expeditions. We will ask the scientific community to propose the experiments to be carried on the Martian surface. We may also invite international space agencies to participate in the mission, as in Chandryaan-1,” the official told IANS but declined to be named.

As the fourth planet from the sun in the solar system, the distance between earth and Mars varies from 36 million miles when nearest, to 250 million miles when farthest in its elliptical orbit around the sun.

Though the government Aug 13 sanctioned Rs.100 million (Rs.10 crore) as seed funding for the Mars mission, a lot of ground work has to be done for preparing the project report.

“The mission to Mars is being conceived as low-cost planetary missions. For instance, Chandrayaan-1 is the finest example of a low-cost mission, as we were able accomplish it at a cost of $80 million (Rs.380 crore) while such missions by other space agencies are considered low-cost at $500 million,” the official claimed.

To prepare a project report for government approval, the space agency will elicit the opinion of the scientific community on the viability of such a mission and evolve a concept paper.

“It is too early to estimate the cost of the mission to Mars. At current prices, it will be twice the cost incurred in the maiden moon mission, which was Rs.380 crore. We have to start from scratch to build a spacecraft, the launch vehicle and other support systems to operate the mission, which will last more than a year or two,” the official noted.

The space agency plans to use the powerful geosynchronous satellite launch vehicle (GSLV) Mark-III for the Mars mission, as the spacecraft had to be first put in the earth’s orbit and raised up to Martian orbit, using ion thrusters and liquid engines.

“It is too early to talk about the mission’s journey as we are yet to design the spacecraft and build the advanced version of the rocket (GSLV-3). We have a long way to go,” the space official added.

Incidentally, the maiden moon mission was aborted Sunday after the space agency’s deep space network at Byalalu, about 40 km from here, failed to restore radio contact with the 514 kg spacecraft, which is orbiting about 200 km away from the lunar surface.

Though the US and Russia had launched missions to Mars, other space-faring nations such as China and Japan are planning to join the Martian race as part of their planetary expeditions. Even the European Space Agency (ESA) is mulling a joint mission to Mars in the coming decade.

The US space agency National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Aug 29 proposed to Russia for a manned mission to Mars by 2030, using the International Space Station (ISS) as a launch-pad to the red planet.

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