National panel okays mission to Mars

Project estimated to cost Rs 450 crore

India’s ambitious Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), estimated to cost Rs 450 crore, was officially cleared for launch by a national committee of experts in a closed-door meeting held late last week.

Sources in the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) said the launch window is scheduled between October 28 and November 19.

Earlier, Isro had planned a launch window from October 21 to November 19, which has now been postponed by a week.

Sources said the committee chaired by former Isro Chairman U R Rao had among its members senior scientist Roddam Narasimha.

“Deliberations were held on two days, where in-depth analysis was carried out. And we have been given a go ahead,” said sources.

Further, he added that the spacecraft, which was unveiled recently, is undergoing acoustic tests at the Isro Satellite Integration and Testing Establishment here, and that it would be moved to the launch site (Sriharikota) in the first week of October.

There the spacecraft will be integrated with the launch vehicle — the PSLV C-25.

After leaving the earth’s orbit in November, the spacecraft will cruise in deep-space for about 10 months and will reach Mars around September 2014.

The 1,350-kg spacecraft will carry five instruments and payloads totaling a mass of 15 kg selected by the Advisory Committee for Space Sciences (ADCOS), to study the Martian surface, atmosphere and mineralogy. Isro also plans to check for methane and map the surface of Mars, besides sending data from the optical-imaging payload.

“The primary driving technological objective of the mission is to design and realise a spacecraft with the capability to reach Mars (Martian transfer Trajectory), and to then orbit around Mars (Mars Orbit Insertion) which will take about nine months,” sources maintain.

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