According to a story in the Associated Press, the Indian government has approved the launch of a probe to orbit Mars. It is hoped that India's first interplanetary science mission will be launched during a window in November 2013.
Mission announced during Indian Independence Day Speech
The Mars mission was announced by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during a speech celebrating the 65th anniversary of India's independence from the British Empire, according to the Associated Press. The Indian Mars probe will be launched by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) in November 2013 and will orbit the Red Planet in September 2014, according to a January article in the Asian Scientist, gathering scientific information with a variety of instruments.
Announcement comes in the wake of the successful landing of the Mars Curiosity
Singh's announcement came in the wake of the successful landing of the Mars Curiosity, a car-sized rover that will explore the Martian surface for signs of life for at least a year. Mars Curiosity is the latest in a series of probes the United States has launched to the Red Planet.
Instruments proposed for Indian Mars mission
A number of scientific instruments have been proposed for the Indian Mars mission, according to the account in the Asian Scientist. Only some of the following will be included in the final mission:
* Probe For Infrared Spectroscopy for Mars (Prism) "will study certain aspects of the Martian atmosphere."
* Mars Exospheric Neutral Composition Analyzer (Menca) "will analyze the Martian upper atmosphere-exosphere region."
* (Tis) "will measure thermal emissions from the surface of the Red Planet."
* "Using radio signals to study the atmosphere."
* "Mars Color Camera (MCC) which can image from a highly elliptical orbit of 500 km x 80,000 km."
* A Methane Sensor For Mars (MSM) to detect methane in the Martian atmosphere.
* A Mars Radiation Spectrometer (Maris) "which can measure and characterize charged particle background levels during the cruise and orbit phase of the spacecraft."
* A Plasma and Current Experiment (Pace) which will assess what is known as "atmospheric escape and processes of the Martian atmosphere and the structure of the Martian tail."
* "A microwave remote-sensing technique for sounding the Martian atmosphere."
* "A suite of instruments to detect plasma waves in the Martian atmosphere."
Indian Mars mission criticized
A number of media outlets and politicians have criticized the idea of India launching a Mars mission. The Associated Press account mentions how some Indian opponents of Singh's Congress Party suggest that an Indian Mars mission represents misplaced priorities. In their view, the Indian government should concentrate on providing electricity and safe drinking water for the Indian people. Indian scientists respond that technological spin-offs from Indian space missions are a justification for carrying them out.
According to the Daily Bhaskar, former ISRO chief G. Madhavan Nair suggested that India should concentrate on launching its own manned mission instead of conducting the robotic Mars mission. He stated that India is falling behind both Russia and China, which both have operational manned space craft.
Indian space probes to the moon
The first major Indian space mission was that of the Chandrayaan 1 that orbited the moon and helped to confirm the existence of water in deep craters at the lunar poles. India is planning a follow up mission, Chandrayaan 2, which will consist of an orbiter and a lander with a rover attached to it.
Mark R. Whittington is the author of Children of Apollo and The Last Moonwalker. He has written on space subjects for a variety of periodicals, including The Houston Chronicle, The Washington Post, USA Today, the L.A. Times, and The Weekly Standard.