Indian Government Weighs Mars Mission

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India’s government is weighing final approval of a plan by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) to launch a Mars orbiter late next year, a senior government official said.

The Mars orbiter mission “is under final stage of consideration by the government for its approval,” V. Narayanasamy, India’s minister of state, told the parliament Aug. 9. In a written statement, Narayanasamy said ISRO has proposed launching the orbiter in October or November on a mission that would be completed by 2015 or 2016 at a cost of 4.5 billion rupees ($82 million).

The release said the mission would “demonstrate India’s technological capability” and “pave the way” for future exploration missions.

ISRO has been preparing for the Mars mission since 2011; the government approved 1.25 billion rupees for the work in the 2012-13 budget.

It would be India’s first interplanetary mission. In 2008 ISRO sent an orbiter to the Moon that confirmed the presence of subsurface water before its mission was cut short by a technical glitch.

The Mars orbiter would be launched aboard an enhanced version of India’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, dubbed PSLV-XL — a similar vehicle launched the Moon mission — from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota on India’s southeastern coast.

According to ISRO, the spacecraft would carry 25 kilograms of scientific payloads and operate in a highly elliptical orbit around the red planet with a perigee of 500 kilometers and an apogee of 80,000 kilometers.

The mission will mainly study the martian atmosphere, Narendra Bhandari, a scientist connected with the planning and selection of the scientific payloads, told Space News. “Four experimental payloads are already ready,” he said.