AsianScientist (Mar. 19, 2012) – India’s mission to Mars received a major boost on Friday during the Union Budget announcement, with the budgetary allocation rocketing from Rs. 10 crores (US$1.99 million) to Rs. 125 crores (US$24.9 million).
The massive increase allays apprehensions that this mission may end up only on the drawing boards.
“Mars Orbiter Mission envisages launching an orbiter around Mars using the PSLV (Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle)-XL during the November 2013 launch opportunity. The Mars orbiter will be placed in an orbit of 500 x 80,000 km around Mars and will have a provision for carrying nearly 25 kg of scientific payloads on board,” the budget document said.
If the mission is targeted for a November 2013 lift off, indications are that the launch will be on November 23, 2013 from the Satish Dhawan Space Center, Sriharikota, with the orbiter arriving in Mars in September 2014.
A mission to Mars can always prove to be a nail-biting experience, because three out of the four missions in the U.S. have failed. In Russia, most of the missions have flopped, the most recent one being the Phobos-Grunt mission.
The PSLV-XL is an advanced version of the PSLV which was used for launching the Chandrayaan-1 mission to the moon on October 22, 2008. Originally, the Mars mission was to have been launched using the three-stage Geo Synchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV). but, with a degree of uncertainty about this rocket, ISRO decided to use the PSLV-XL which is a highly reliable vehicle.
On March 2, 2012, during a debate jointly organized by the newly-formed Mars Society India and the Nehru Center on “Mission to Mars: Go Or No Go,” eminent space scientist, P. C. Agrawal, announced that the mission was on track and the flight engine is expected to be tested in June. The participants of the debate were students from IIT-Mumbai.
Agrawal’s remark assumes significance in the context of him being a member of an ISRO-appointed committee which recently deliberated about the feasibility of the program.
Top space scientists, the majority of them attached to the Ahmedabad-based Physical Research Laboratory (PRL), an ISRO affiliate, have suggested ten experiments that can be a part of the mission. Most of them relate to the study of the Martian atmosphere. Many in the space community feel that the Mars mission should be given precedence over India’s second mission to the moon, Chandrayaan-2.
At the National Space Science Symposium which was jointly organized by the Sri Venkateshwara University and ISRO in February, there were a number of presentations about the scientific payloads which will fly on the Indian Mars mission.
The overall budget for ISRO has shot up from Rs. 4,432 crores to Rs. 6,715 crores with several other projects also planned. The allocation for the human space flight program has also gone up from Rs. 10 crores to Rs. 30 crores.
Copyright: Asian Scientist Magazine; Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ESA/DLR/FU Berlin/MSSS.
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