Indian space scientists are not merely eyeing the Moon. They plan a probe to Mars for a six-to-eight-month odyssey in 2012-13, to look for evidence of life on the Red Planet.
Inter-planetary missions will search for answers to a gamut of questions, from the chemical attributes of the Martian atmosphere to secrets hidden below ground.
They will use powerful remote-sensing gadgets onboard a 500-kg payload. Such plans indicate that Chandaryaan-I (2007-08) will not be a one-shot effort at technologically daunting missions.
Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) chairman G Madhavan Nair told HT: "Mars is emerging on our horizon. The GSLV can take a payload to Mars and our Deep Space Network can track it all the way. There is a lot of interest in Mars, though the distances are large. The missions of the United States and the European Space Agency have given us some interesting data. Let us see what value addition our mission can bring."
An ISRO probe would spark international interest across the world, and perhaps lead to an international Mars station. Former ISRO chairman UR Rao explained that the mission would require new experiments, with many technological spin-offs. "We need very good young scientists and middle-level scientists with leadership qualities to take these programmes forward," he said.
"On Mars, there is a structure that resembles the Grand Canyon but is three times larger," said SC Chakravarthy, ISRO programme director for the space science office. "We will gather detailed imagery to look for answers on how it was formed."
Like in previous projects, ISRO will attempt new studies on Mars. Dr Chakravarthy, said "Our mission will look at a gamut of questions not only of the terrain but sub soil features with high resolution remote sensing instruments."
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