New Delhi/Bangalore: India will launch its first mission to Mars later this year, President Mr Pranab Mukherjee said. With this, India looks to play catch-up in the global space race alongside the United States, Russia and its giant neighbour China. “Several space missions are planned for 2013, including India’s first mission to Mars and the launch of our first navigational satellite,” Mr Mukherjee told Parliament. India will send a satellite via an unmanned spacecraft to orbit the red planet, blasting off from Sriharikota in a mission expected to cost about $83 million, scientists who are part of the mission said. The spacecraft, to be built in India, will take nine months to reach Mars and then launch itself in an elliptical orbit about 500km (310 miles) from the planet. “The mission is ready to roll,” Mr Deviprasad Karnik, a scientist from the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), said. Another top source, too, confirmed to TOI about the mission that will be launched in October. It’ll be the culmination of 10 missions planned this year. It will be launched using a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle’s (PSLV) XLor extended model rocket from Sriharikota. On reaching the red planet, it’ll be inserted into its electrical orbit. The nine-month voyage will study the origin of Mars and gain more information about the planet, the source said. “Methane sensors will be used to predict the possibility of life on the planet,” the official added. India’s space exploration programme began in 1962. Five years ago, its Chandrayaan satellite found evidence of water on the Moon. India is now looking at landing a wheeled rover on the Moon in 2014.
2013, THE LAUNCH YEAR
Feb 25: Indo-French satellite SARAL using PSLV-C20 launch vehicle
May: GSLV D5 carrying communication satellite GSAT 14
June-July: Launch of INSAT 3D and GSAT 7
Third quarter 2013: Launch of India’s first navigational satellite, Indian Regional Navigational Satellite Series, IRNSS
October: Mars mission
Source: Times of India