After rival China’s failed mission to Mars in November last year, and goaded by the success of India’s moon mission in 2008, the Indian cabinet has finally given the green signal to the Mars mission.
The Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on August 3, 2012 approved the Indian Space Research Organization’s proposal to put a satellite in an orbit around Mars.
After U.S, Russia, Europe, Japan and China, India will be the sixth country to take on a mission to Mars.
A Mars Orbiter could be launched by an advanced version of ISRO’s rocket, the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) as early as November 2013 with 25 kg payload to study its atmosphere.
Should the current mission fail, the next available opportunities are in 2016 and 2018.
The orbiter will likely study the climate, geology, origin, evolution and sustainability of life on the planet.
The ground works, including short listing of scientific payloads, and baseline, solar array and reflector configurations, are already finalized.
While the total cost of the mission will be more than $100 million, the government has allocated $41 million for the mission.
As always, critics and pessimists believe India is being profligate at a time when the nation could do well to concentrate on inflation, downward growth rate, unemployment and infrastructural necessities.
However, according to an ISRO official, “This is technology demonstration project, a mission that will announce to the world India has the capability to reach as far away as Mars.”
Critics are perhaps not aware of the immense technological spin-offs that space missions can unleash. It should rather be considered an investment in our future. For instance, microelectronics and computers used today are the technological spin-offs of the Apollo mission. Technology designed for Mars missions in the past have made solar energy production more efficient for us.
Radar technology developed to locate subsurface water on Mars can possibly be used to locate underground water sources in our deserts. Besides, these missions will most possibly promise a cleaner environment on our planet, if closed ecosystems to promote colonies on Mars and Moon eventually become a reality.