With hopes to become the first Asian nation to explore the Red Planet.
In more than half a century of trying, only two space agencies — from the United States and Europe — have managed to pull off entirely successful Mars missions. Attempts by Russia, Japan, England, and China to send spacecraft to the Red Planet have all ended in total or near-total failure.
Now India’s space agency, ISRO, hopes to succeed where others have stumbled. Next Tuesday, an Indian PSLV rocket is scheduled to lift off from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre near the country’s southern tip, carrying the Mars Orbiter Mission spacecraft, also known as Mangalyaan — Hindi for “Mars craft.”
The Mars Orbiter Mission spacecraft attached to its rocket, just before being closed inside the launch shroud. (Photo: ISRO)
It’s a bold step for India, but then so was its Chandrayaan-1 lunar orbiter, which mapped the moon’s surface in 2008. By designing the $70 million (cheap for a Mars orbiter) MOM mission as a technology demonstrator, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has taken the cautious route, and may have improved its odds. Rather than load up a big spacecraft with lots of expensive instruments (which would ...