News / Asia

Mars Mission Marks Milestone in India's Space Program

India's Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) C-20 blasts off, carrying Indo-French satellite SARAL from the Satish Dhawan space centre at Sriharikota, north of the southern Indian city of Chennai, February 25, 2013.
India's Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) C-20 blasts off, carrying Indo-French satellite SARAL from the Satish Dhawan space centre at Sriharikota, north of the southern Indian city of Chennai, February 25, 2013.
Anjana Pasricha
India’s ambitious plan to send a spacecraft to Mars later this year marks a major milestone in its space program. The mission is a bid by India to catch up in the global space race and join the league of major space-faring nations. 

The unmanned, Indian spacecraft will be launched around November, when the red planet is closest to earth. It will take nine months to reach Mars' orbit.

An official at the Indian Space Research Organization, Deviprasad Karnik, says the Mars Orbiter mission will be equipped with a methane sensor and look for signs of past life.    

"The presence of methane on the surface of Mars will give us an indication of probability of life existence either from biological or zoological source," said Karnik.

The Mars mission comes five years after India sent an unmanned spacecraft to the moon and detected evidence of water on the lunar surface for the first time. It was heralded as a significant scientific discovery.

India now joins a handful of nations, including the United States, Russia, China and Japan, that have sent spacecrafts to probe Mars.

James Oberg, a space consultant based in Houston, Texas, says India’s Mars mission has the potential to make an important contribution.  

"The time is now for many players to be doing many things across a much wider range of target goals than in the simple days of the moon race. It is not just playing a game, or showing off at the Olympics or something. It is actually making contributions to the world," he said. "We have seen the technology that India has brought to the space program, very significant technology, and the goals of the program appear to me to be very realistic and very important for India as well as the rest of the world."

Shift in mission

The Mars mission marks a fundamental shift in India's space mission. For more than four decades, those missions focused on improving the life of ordinary Indians by sending communication and earth observation satellites into space. They helped in many ways. They brought television to remote corners, looked for water in drought prone districts and helped farmers reclaim wasteland. Satellite images connected rural areas to city hospitals.  
 
But India decided to aim higher and enter the realm of space exploration after its scientists developed rocket technology. Many see this as part of the Asian country’s ambitions to be seen as one of the world’s leading countries, and not be left behind in the space race by countries like China.

Entering the global space race

Speaking after the Indian Space Research Organization launched seven satellites in February, President Pranab Mukherjee says the Mars mission will place India among the few nations that have attempted such a feat.

"For India to occupy its right place in the comity of nations, we must promote innovation and technological advancement," he said.

The Mars mission will not be easy - only about one of every three missions to the Red Planet has been a success. It is not only difficult to send a craft to Mars, it is equally challenging for it to arrive in proper working order and transmit data back to Earth.

Ajey Lele, a space analyst at the Institute of Defense Studies and Analysis in New Delhi, says the aims of India’s Mars mission are modest and intended to test India’s capability of probing deep space. 

“It’s a very small payload. India’s intention of sending this mission is not to do a major assessment of Mars at this point in time. The idea is to learn how to reach into the close proximity to Mars.  So this is basically going to be an experimental mission and subsequently you can think of major payloads," said Lele. 

Controversy over cost

The Mars mission's price tag - about $80 million - has irked critics who say a country with millions of poor people should spend resources on tackling more pressing issues such as malnutrition and illiteracy.

Bindeswar Pathak is a welfare activist in New Delhi, who has helped improve sanitation in a country where half the population does not have access to adequate toilet facilities.    

“Equal amount should be spent on poverty eradication. They have lopsided balance," said Pathak. "On one hand, they are trying to go to Mars. But on the other hand, we have people who are marginalized and poor. They lack many facilities.”

Defenders of the space mission say India’s space program runs on a low budget and is widely acknowledged as being thrifty.

Space analysts say the $80 million cost for the Mars mission is no more than the price of a Boeing aircraft and well within the emerging economy’s reach. The cost is unlikely to deter India from pressing ahead with its ambitions in space. It is already setting its sights higher, and hopes to send a manned mission to space by 2020.

You May Like

Anti-Terror Drills Highlight China’s Push Into Central Asia

China, Russia, several central Asian countries wrap up massive anti terrorism military drills in Inner Mongolia More

Erdogan’s First Step: Secure More Power in New Role in Turkey

Erdogan was sworn in as Turkey's first popularly elected president on Thursday; he picked former foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu as PM More

Pakistan Army Fails to Break Political Deadlock

PM Sharif claims he didn't ask army to defuse crisis; military rejects claim More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Kevin Kirk from: Australia
March 11, 2013 4:26 AM
Great! Good to see other countries putting effort to go to mars will give the Australian government the kick as they need to start Australia's 50 year overdue space program!

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assaulti
X
Daniel Schearf
August 29, 2014 9:30 PM
After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video America's Most Popular Artworks Displayed in Public Places

Public places in cities across America were turned into open-air art galleries in August. Pictures of the nation’s most popular artworks were displayed on billboards, bus shelters, subway platforms and more. The idea behind “Art Everywhere,” a collaborative campaign by five major museums is to allow more people to enjoy art and learn about the country’s culture and history. Faiza Elmasry has more.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. Shaikh Azizur Rahman reports from Kolkata.

AppleAndroid