As India’s first mission to Mars, Mangalyaan, blasted off to space on Tuesday, a senior Isro scientist closely associated with the grand project said that the red planet is the most “plausible” site for human settlement if mankind ever needs a second home.
“If, at any time in the distant future, we have to think of an
alternative habitat for human beings, Mars appears to be the most plausible site at present,” Jitendra Nath Goswami, director of the Isro’s Physical Research Laboratory in Ahmedabad, told HT through email.
The Physical Research Laboratory, set up in 1947, will analyse the data to be relayed back to Earth by the Mars Orbiter.
Hailing from the upper Assam town of Jorhat, Goswami was also closely associated with India’s first Moon mission, Chandrayaan.
Goswami, however, refused to answer a specific query on the privately-funded Mars One project, which aims to put four people on the Red Planet by 2023. After landing the four people, the non-profit project envisages sending supply ships and four additional colonists every two years to set up a human colony on Mars. At the moment, there are no plans to bring any of these explorers back to Earth.
The Isro scientist said that one of the objectives of the Mars mission is to study "how and why the planet lost water and carbon dioxide".
“We know that once upon a time water was flowing on the Mars...one of the instruments, Lymaan Alpha Photometer, on the Mars Orbiter will try to provide data that will help us understand why and how Mars lost water and carbon dioxide,” Goswami added.
“Nobody has done research on why water was lost. We are trying to do things which were not precisely or exactly done,” he said.
Besides, he said, another instrument on board the orbiter, Menca, “will measure the abundance of all neutral gas present in Martian atmosphere...Even though the Mars orbiter will be at 400 km or more above the planet’s surface, we shall be able to detect and infer relative abundances of various species present in its atmosphere as they will also be present in the topmost layer...”
Stating that the Mars Orbiter Mission is a challenging technical mission, Goswami, however, hoped, “Once we are there, the scientific instruments would help us further our understanding of the evolution of Mars and its current environment”.
Once the Mars orbiter settles down in its orbit for the 300-day-long odyssey, Goswami will get down to business for the next task at hand, the second moon mission, Chandrayaan II. The mission is likely in 2016.