Hubble Space Telescope Image credit: NASA/ESA

Some exciting news is on the horizon, with the announcement that India will be attempting its hand at launching its first interplanetary probe!  The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) originally scheduled the date of this event to transpire on Oct.28, 2013, but due to delays with the delivery of  crucial radar equipment - it has now been postponed for November 5, 2013.

The probe, called  Mars Orbiter Mission, will India's first mission to the Red Planet.  The spacecraft will be ejected into orbit, then, through a series of complicated maneuvers, it will align its trajectory to keep the probe in sync with Mars' orbit.  Because of the short distance separating Mars and Earth, October and November are the ideal months for launch.

After a 300 day journey; when the Orbiter arrives to Mars, it will be powered by a solar panel array. In order to ensure the probe can collect an adequate amount of energy from the sun to power the instruments (and keep them in working order), the array is designed to unfold - ultimately deploying 3 separate panels.  Said tools will include a colored camera and an imaging spectrometer, which will aim to study the surface composition, minerals, and the atmospheric conditions of the Red Planet.  In addition, the probe will capture high resolution images of both natural satellites of Mars, Phobos and Deimos - two of the most unusual moons in our solar system.

Details of this mission are actually pretty sparse, yet it's clear that India takes a large measure of pride in this undertaking.  What is known, however, is that after their successful mission to the moon in 2008- 2009 - with the Chandrayaan 1 probe (a mission that proved very important in establishing that water exists on the moon) - they used the probe as a blue print, helping develop specific modifications and upgrades to further improve the prototype.

It is believed that the "Mars Orbiter Mission" will cost about 4.5 billion rupees  (about 82 million U.S. dollars) - at least, that is the cost projected by the Associated Press. If successful, the mission will make the ISRO one of the four agencies to successfully explore the Red Planet (along with Europe, Russia and the US), beating even China to the punch.  Combined with India's audacious goal of manned spaceflight by 2015, we may see the kick-start of a new Asian space race (you hear that, America?)!  Hopefully, through the ingenuity of the most intelligent individuals from many different countries coming together to become involved in space exploration, new designs will emerge that will help improve our understanding of our local neighborhood (maybe eventually, interstellar space).

The ISRO will also be working with NASA; employing the use of their deep space network to communicate with the Mars Orbiter probe.

Source for the information presented here can be found at the Times of India


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