Indian Government Approves 2013 Mission To Mars
By Srinivas Laxman | Top News
August 6, 2012
The Indian government gave its approval late on Friday for a 2013 mission to Mars.
AsianScientist (Aug. 6, 2012) – The Indian government gave its approval late on Friday for the a 2013 mission to Mars.
The Cabinet meeting which gave the approval was chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The space commission had cleared the project earlier in December 2011.
Significantly, the Cabinet’s approval came 96 hours prior to the Monday landing of NASA’s 900-kg Curiosity rover on Mars.
The first indication that the mission would be approved by the government came in March 2012 when its budgetary allocation was increased from Rs. 10 crores to Rs. 126 crores.
Another indication was that the ISRO chairman, K. Radhakrishnan announced at the 39th COSPAR Scientific Assembly, held at Mysore on July 14, 2012, that approval for the Indian Mars mission was expected soon.
The mission is slated for lift off in November 2013 from the Satish Dhawan Space Center in Sriharikota, and the spacecraft will enter into a 500 by 80,000 km orbit around the Red Planet in September 2014. It will be an orbiting mission and there will be no lander.
If for some reason ISRO misses the November 2013 launch window, the next opportunity will be in 2016 and then again in 2018.
“All our leave will have to be sacrificed now. We have to work continuously for the November 2013 launch,” said a scientist requesting anonymity.
The primary role of the mission is to study the Martian atmosphere, climate, and geology, and also the origin, evolution, and sustainability of life on Mars.
Indications are that nearly 200 ISRO scientists will team up to implement the program.
According to the Department of Space, the Indian Mars orbiter “is derived from the Chandrayaan heritage and takes into account the lessons learnt from that project.”
The main improvements in the Mars mission over Chandrayaan would be to provide on-board autonomy in communication, an improved propulsion system, and enhanced power generation capacity because of the distance from the sun. During launch, two shipborne terminals will be positioned in the Pacific Ocean.
Speaking to Asian Scientist Magazine, U. R. Rao, chairman of ISRO’s Advisory Committee for Space Sciences (ADCOS), said that the payloads have been tentatively decided. “But, the final decision will depend upon the choice of the rocket,” he said.
Though it seems almost certain that the rocket will be the advanced version of the four-stage Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, designated as PSLV-XL, Rao explained that the advantage of using the three-stage Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) is that it will be carry more weight. The PSLV-XL was used for India’s maiden mission to the moon, Chandrayaan-1, in October 2008.
The total mass of the Mars-bound spacecraft may vary from a mere 10.5 kg to 25 kg. If it is the former, then only four instruments will qualify for the mission.
At Cospar 2012, there were presentations on two of the payloads – the Plasma and Current Experiment (Pace) and the Miniature Electro-Optic Sensor. The engineering models of both the instruments are ready.
The Department of Space states that the “Indian initiative will demonstrate our capability to reach the Martian atmosphere. It will bring strategic advantage to India in the international decision-making process on matters related to Mars.”
NASA is also planning to launch a mission to Mars in November 2013 called the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution, or Maven, which will also study the Martian atmosphere. Maven will be equipped with eight instruments.
With the Union Cabinet’s approval on Friday night, India will join the global race to the Red Planet.
Copyright: Asian Scientist Magazine.
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