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India starts countdown for Mars mission


November 3, 2013

Mars Orbiter Mission ready for heat shield closure

Mars Orbiter Mission ready for heat shield closure

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India has started the clock on its most ambitious space project to date. On Sunday at 6:08 IST, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) began the countdown for its Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM). If all goes to schedule, the unmanned probe will lift off on Tuesday from the First Launch Pad at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SHAR), on the island of Sriharikota at 2:38 pm IST atop a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C25), marking the point where India hopes to launch itself into the space-faring big leagues.

On Sunday, the fourth stage of the PSLV was loaded with monomethyl hydrazine propellant and mixed oxides of nitrogen, followed on Monday morning with the beginnings of fueling the second stage. Once launched, the MOM probe will act as a technology demonstrator to show that India can design, build, launch, and execute an interplanetary exploration mission. In this case, a mission to Mars, which will involve a 300-day passage followed by studies lasting six to ten months from the spacecraft's elliptical orbit.

For studying the Red Planet, MOM is equipped with 15 kg (33 lb) of instruments. These include a Lyman-Alpha Photometer (LAP), which is an absorption cell photometer that measures the relative abundance of deuterium and hydrogen in the Martian upper atmosphere and will be used to determine the rate that Mars loses water to space. There is also a Methane Sensor for Mars (MSM), which measures methane in the Martian atmosphere in parts per billion – an experiment that has drawn considerable interest after NASA’s Curiosity rover failed to detect any trace of the gas.

The other three instruments are the Mars Exospheric Neutral Composition Analyzer (MENCA), which is a quadrupole mass analyzer to study the composition of the upper atmosphere, a Thermal Infrared Imaging Spectrometer (TIS) that will map the temperature of the Martian surface, and the Mars Colour Camera (MCC) that will be used to study the surface features and composition of Mars and its moons Phobos and Deimos.

In an interview with the BBC, ISRO Chairman K Radhakrishna defended the launch of a Mars mission from his country by stating that the Indian space program only consumes 0.34 percent of Indian central government expenditure, but since its inception half a century ago has produced tangible and intangible benefits that have surpassed the monetary investment.

Source: ISRO

About the Author
David Szondy David Szondy is a freelance writer based in Monroe, Washington. An award-winning playwright, he has contributed to Charged and iQ magazine and is the author of the website Tales of Future Past. All articles by David Szondy

Having worked extensively in India with Doctors and Dentists, Engineers and Scientists I can say they have some very bright people. However, I hope that this rocket gets off the ground, but I can guarantee this probe will not complete its mission. Indians have a habit of cutting corners and being economical with the truth. They are excellent at finding solutions. However, their solutions are rather less than hacks at best. There will be no observance of safety whether regulated or common sense and I can guarantee this experiment will not work.

Aside from that, having seen the countless people starving to death in every city I have visited (in the last two years 18 visits to India each comprising of 4 or 5 city visits) there is a question of morality here. Having said that, there are countless homeless and areas of desolation in the USA, but not as widespread as it is in India. At least NASA and those involved in the US Space Industry would adhere to safety standards (for fear of legal action). In India, it takes an average of 12 years for a court case to get to a preliminary hearing.

This may be exciting news for India, but I guess most Indians would be more excited about proper healthcare and sanitation.

The Master

So why is the UK giving India £1.4 billion in aid? Someone please explain as I have difficulty in coming to terms with this.


While I am always pro any country that is involved in space research I simply struggle with the notion that a country that cannot afford to feed it's own poor seem to have the spare money to maintain a nuclear deterrent AND a space programme !

As a previous poster has already stated, the UK has provided a substantial level of aid to India for many years. Given that our own space programme began (and ended) in 1971 due to our inability to finance it, how on earth can it be justified to support another country's ?

Simon Ross

hkmk23, too much jealous? India does what your little country could not do that. Couple of months ago, India built the air craft ship carriers. I heard a lot of jealous comments. It does not matter. India is the only friendlier and able place where u can send your satellites 10 times cheaper and safer. Nasa understood. europeoun space organisation understood. But it takes time for normal europeans to understand. We are ready to wait for that. U can not go to china to send your sattelites cheaper. U like it or not, u guys need counterbalance in the asia against the looming threat of china. As long as u have the scare of china, we dont worry.

gentle man

Remember that old saying:

"If you give a man a fish, he'll eat for a day. If you teach a man to send a spaceship to Mars, he'll figure out how to feed everyone."

Indians too need to realize their full mental potential in science and technology. There may be some wasteful things that Indians spend their money on, but science and technology are not among them.

San Man

I completely agree with the previous comments. I've never been to India, but what I've consistently heard about it for decades is how impoverished many people there are, how poor health conditions can be, and how many problems with the infrastructure exist. It could be argued that space exploration by ANY nation on earth is questionable given the myriad problems that exist on earth, but somehow India doing this is so ridiculous it would seem that I'd see this article in the Onion where at least we'd all know it's a joke rather than in Gizmag...


So what all the pro-India space program commentators are saying is that you now have enough resources to waste on things like space launches and that Western countries can now stop giving you billions and billions in aid.

Great! Works for me.

Rann Xeroxx

The Master,

First, one has to compare apple to apple. It looks like India has to eradicate poverty first and then enter into any technology side. If it is true, then the world won't get until today to work people in the IT sector. This indirectly boosts India's GDP and in turn help to reduce poverty level. One can not easily understand Indian system from outside.

Do not mix the politics, court, corruption, healthcare, sanitation and food to the rocket science. India is using only 0.34% of the money from the Government for satellite science. Google it how much income created by India merely selling the remote sensing data to the USA and other countries. Of course, it takes time to become number one. When we have a visionary leader, we will answer all your mixed questions in one word: This is INDIA.


I remember reading somewhere that India considered UK annual aid programme to India as "peanuts". Hmmm, even peanuts are much needed food to a needy person. That aside the US spends much, much more on all kinds of unnecessary armament just to keep the defence industry happy while it has its own share of poor people neglected by the government.


The UK no longer gives aid to India. It stopped in April 2013. Moreover the thieving British should return the billions they looted from India before moralising about India trying to become a modern successful country without invading others and robbing and enslaving others

Aprophet False

I see lot of people complaining about how India is spending money on space program instead of poor people. I would like to remind them India spent 48 billion $ for poverty reduction and just 860 million $ on space program ( merely 84 million $ on this particular project).

I also noticed that people who criticize Indian space program don't have any idea about it. Let me try to explain what Indian space program is. India has launched 72 satellites in space so far and only 2 of them are used for military. Other 70 are either communication satellites or weather satellites. These satellites are actually helpful for increasing human lifestyle i.e. lifting poverty. Weather satellites are mostly used for early warnings and they save life of millions of people not just in India but globally.

All I am trying to say is learn the facts and then put your opinion.

( To all Britishers crying havoc about UKs aid to India. Indian finance minister made it pretty clear a while ago that we don't need your aid yet your government insists on giving us aid so take it to your government instead of criticizing Indians. )

Aditya Ponkshe
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