The cabinet has approved the Indian Space Research Organisation's (ISRO) mission to Mars, reports The Hindu. The launch is now slated to happen in November next year.
In November 2013, Mars will be the closest it will get to Earth until the summer of 2018. India's mission to Mars is estimated to cost Rs. 450 crores. In this year's budget, an initial provision of Rs. 125 crores had been made to begin work on the mission.
India slated to kickstart its mission to Mars in November 2013 (Image credit: Getty Images)
Last month, Tech2 had reported about India's plans of setting foot on the elusive Red planet. The project report for the Indian Mars Orbiter mission had been sent over for government approval. Dr. K. Radhakrishnan, Secretary, Department of Space, and Chairman, ISRO, said, “A lot of studies have been done on the possible mission to Mars. We have come to the last phase of approvals. And I am sure that, maybe soon, we will be hearing an announcement on the Mars mission”.
According to ISRO, the probable scientific objective of India's mission to Mars will be to focus on life, climate, geology, origin, evolution and sustainability of life on the planet. The baseline, solar array and reflector configuration of the satellite have been finalised. The Orbiter will be placed in an orbit of 500 x 80,000 km around Mars, and will carry nearly 25 kg of scientific payloads onboard.
The recent landing of NASA's Curiosity rover on Mars was historic. The elusive planet has been piquing the curiosity of humankind for centuries now, and the possibility of life on Mars has been the topic of the most interest.
Mars Science Laboratory and Curiosity made a touchdown on Mars' Gale Crater, approximately 352 million miles (567 million kilometers) and 36 weeks after being launched from Earth. Seven pairs of cameras were placed on the rover, and they included the Remote Micro Imager, part of the Chemistry and Camera suite; four black-and-white Navigation Cameras (Navcams), two on the left and two on the right; and two color Mast Cameras (Mastcams). The cameras will enable the rover to capture hitherto unseen images of the Red Planet. Elaborating on Curiosity's schedule, NASA adds that the first images from the rover will come from the one-megapixel Hazard-Avoidance cameras (Hazcams) that have been attached to its body. It is only when its engineers deem it safe to deploy the rover's Remote Sensing Mast and its high-tech cameras that Curiosity can begin its task.
Recently, Tech2 reported about the Pancam (panoramic camera) on Opportunity, NASA's Mars Exploration Rover, which caught Mars on lens. The images included its fresh rover tracks, an impact crater blasted billions of years ago, among other things in an expansive panoramic image called 'Mars Panorama: Next Best Thing to Being There'. The full-circle scene is composed of 817 images captured by the Pancam. These images depicted “the ruddy terrain around the outcrop where the long-lived explorer spent its most recent Martian winter”.
Recent reports have indicated that a network of tunnels on Mars formed as a result of magma flow and non-existent volcanoes may be capable of sustaining life, rekindling hope that the Red Planet may be habitable. The presence of 'distinctive pit chains' on the surface of Mars, surrounding the Tharsus Montes volcanoes, indicate that the tunnels and depressions on the surface collapsed after the magma flow stopped. Researchers are now of the opinion that the other tunnels on the surface are likely to have had running water ages ago, and there are also locations where they could look for microbial life on the planet, which could indicate the planet's ability to sustain life.