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

Changing Under Pressure, IS ‘Potent’ as Ever

US intel officials describe Ramadi's fall as concerning, but say it isn't emblematic of larger effort to degrade IS capabilities More

Nigeria Fuel Shortage Shows Fragility of Africa’s Oil Giant

Although it is the largest oil producer in Africa, country has nearly ran out of fuel it needs to power its generators, cars and airplanes over the past week More

Arrested Football Officials Come Mainly From the Americas

US Justice Department alleges defendants participated in 24-year scheme to enrich themselves through corruption of international soccer 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.
3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Cari
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
May 27, 2015 9:31 PM
Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.

VOA Blogs