The Mars orbiter will be launched as per schedule and will not be delayed because of the probability of the red planet being hit by a comet next year, Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) chairman Dr K Radhakrishnan said.
Ruling out any re-scheduling, he told HT: “We cannot hold the mission. We are constantly watching. This has given us an opportunity to make a detail study in this direction. According to revised estimates, the probability of a comet striking Mars has been brought down considerably.”
India is planning to launch its first Mars orbiter in November this year, when the planet will be closest to the Earth. NASA researchers had given Comet C/2013 A1(Sliding Spring), a 1-in 8000 chance of striking the Red Planet in October 2014 but revised calculations now put the possibility of an impact at just 1 in 1,20,000.
While the odds of a Mars comet strike are now exceedingly remote, the new information also suggests that Sliding Spring will fly closer to the planet than originally expected. Comet Siding Spring will make its closest approach to Mars on October 19, 2014, according to NASA officials.
“The Mars Orbiter Mission is progressing satisfactorily. The spacecraft structure is already delivered. The Indian deep space network at Bylalu (near Bangalore) is being suitably augmented to support the mission,” he said.
Enumerating the challenges with the mission, he said : “There will be a 300-day voyage in the trajectory after which the same propulsion system has to work again to capture the Martian Orbit. A slightest glitch in the calculation of propulsive action or time can result in loss of the mission. We have to complete the mission in a very tight time schedule. If we miss this, we’ll have to wait for the next opportunity which would come after 26 months, where we will have to go for a GSLV instead of PSLV.”