Mis­sion Mars

Southasia - - BRIEFINGS -

With the aim to putting a satel­lite in space that would or­bit Mars, In­dia launched its first rocket, the Mars Or­biter Mis­sion. Shot from the south­east­ern coast of In­dia, the satel­lite is sched­uled to search for meth­ane and signs of min­er­als on the planet. So far, only the United States, Europe, and Rus­sia have sent probes that have or­bited or landed on Mars. Such probes have a high fail­ure rate. There­fore, suc­cess would be a huge boost for In­dia, es­pe­cially since a sim­i­lar mis­sion launched by China in 2011 had failed to leave the Earth’s or­bit.

In­dia’s ties with China are marked as much by com­pe­ti­tion as co­op­er­a­tion. Al­though In­dian sci­en­tists deny any space race, an­a­lysts say that In­dia has stepped up its pro­gram be­cause of con­cerns about China’s civil­ian and mil­i­tary space tech­nol­ogy.

The low-cost mis­sion po­si­tions In­dia as a bud­get player in the global space race. The probe’s Rs.4.5 bil­lion price tag is a frac­tion of the cost of NASA’s MAVEN mis­sion. In­dia is likely to cap­ture more of the $304 bil­lion global space mar­ket with its low-cost tech­nol­ogy. “This is a mod­est be­gin­ning for our in­ter­plan­e­tary mis­sion,” said De­viprasad Karnik, spokesman for the state-run In­dian Space Re­search Or­ga­ni­za­tion (ISRO).

In­dia’s space pro­gram be­gan 50 years ago and de­vel­oped rapidly af­ter Western pow­ers im­posed sanc­tions in re­sponse to a nu­clear weapons test in 1974, spurring In­dian sci­en­tists to build ad­vanced rocket tech­nol­ogy. Five years ago, In­dia’s Chan­drayaan probe landed on the moon and found ev­i­dence of wa­ter there.

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