India is expecting to launch a $73 million spacecraft, named MangalYaan toward the planet Mars on November 5, officials of the Indian Space Research Organization said.
While India’s space program has so far focused on aiding the country’s development with Earth-observing satellites to spot potential sources of groundwater and monitor deforestation, in 2008 it launched a lunar orbiter. Such space missions could lead to new applications in other research areas and encourage a new generation of scientists and engineers, K.R. Sridhara Murthi, who worked at the Indian Space Research Organization for nearly 40 years, told NewsScientist.
The spacecraft is designed to photograph the Martian surface from orbit and search for signs of methane in the planet’s atmosphere, be it expelled by non-biological or microbial sources.
The Mangalyaan probe’s major objectives are both technological as well as scientific. First, the Mars orbiter showcases the country’s spacecraft-building and operations acumen. Second, the probe carries a high-tech suite of sensors to explore the Red Planet’s surface features, morphology, mineralogy and Martian atmosphere using indigenous scientific instruments. angalyaan’s anticipated on-orbit mission life is between six and 10 months. The spacecraft structure and propulsion hardware configurations are similar to the Chandrayaan mission to the moon which launched in 2008. See Infographic on Space.com here
India hopes to show it can put a working probe into Mars orbit, something so far only accomplished by the United States, Russia and the European Union. It’s a significant challenge, as more than half of all Mars mission by a number of countries have so far failed.