Why set sights on the moon, when we can go to Mars?
The who’s who of the scientist community will debate on this, G. Madhavan Nair, chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation, told Hindustan Times. “There’s a lot of interest in Mars. We will call the scientists (for a debate) and invite proposals for participation in the project,” he said.
The timeframe for this mission to Mars is 2012 — the end of the 11th Plan period. The budget — about Rs 250 crore includes the spacecraft and the rocket.
In addition to new details, space scientists are confident that a Mars mission will stir up research interest in astrophysics and astronomy in the country. The technological spin-offs would benefit the sectors of aerospace technology, communications and medicine.
Nair’s ISRO colleagues said their expertise in remote sensing will help in manufacturing a 500-kg orbiter that would beam home high-resolution pictures of the Martian surface, composition of its atmosphere and canyon-like structures.
“Apart from the data that will help our scientists, this will be a major technological milestone of the Indian space programme. At this point, we think it will carry only Indian instruments (from research organisations and universities), but if we find there’s room for more, we will incorporate their payloads as well,” one scientist said.
For the moon mission, Chandrayaan-I, ISRO has accepted gadgets from NASA and the European Space Agency. Its successor, Chandrayaan-II, will be a collaborative effort of Indian and Russian space scientists.
They plan to use the GSLV-MK III to launch the Mars orbiter from Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota, near Chennai.