India has Red Planet Fever

January 16, 2012 By Amy Shira Teitel, Universe Today
Mars, the possible focal point for India's future space endeavours. Credit: NASA/courtesy of

Mars fever has gripped India. In a recent report from the Planetary Science and Exploration conference that was held in December 2011, scientists from the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) are making preliminary plans for a robotic mission to the Red Planet sometime next year. 

The possibility of an Indian mission to first came up during a brainstorming session at the Physical Research Laboratory (PRL), an affiliate of the ISRO, last March. For two days, scientists and students developed their plans and proposals for a mission to the .

A Mars Mission Study Team has been established to review proposed scenarios for the future mission, and an Indian chapter of the Mars Society formed last year at IIT-Mumbai.

The report from the meeting last month gives a concrete look at what Indian scientists have on their Martian wish list. In all, ten instruments and experiments comprise the ultimate mission.

En route to Mars, a Mars Radiation Spectrometer (Maris) will measure and characterize background levels of charged particles in interplanetary space. This data will play a vital role in determining radiation levels facing humans going to Mars.

Once at Mars, the proposed Indian mission will focus on the Martian atmosphere.

A Probe For Infrared Spectroscopy for Mars (Prism) is designed to study the spatial and seasonal variations of atmospheric gases on Mars’ atmosphere throughout the mission’s lifetime. The Mars Exospheric Neutral Composition Analyzer (Menca) is designed to analyze the planet’s upper atmosphere-exosphere, the region roughly 400 km (248 miles) above the surface.

Specific instruments are designed to study the composition of the atmosphere. A Methane Sensor For Mars (MSM) has been proposed to detect traces of the gas in the atmosphere. Another instrument, Tis, will measure thermal emissions to help scientists generate a map reflecting the composition and mineralogy of the planet. It will also help the team monitor carbon dioxide levels.

A Plasma and Current Experiment (Pace) will assess the escape rate of the atmosphere and the structure of the “tail” this escaping atmosphere creates. Radio and microwave instruments will also be on board the spacecraft to measure the planet’s surface activity. A suite of instruments will also be on hand to detect plasma waves in the atmosphere.

Visual measurements are also part of the proposed mission. The Mars Color Camera (MCC) is designed to photograph the Martian surface from a highly elliptical orbit, roughly 500 km by 80,000 km (310 miles by 49,700 miles). The camera will be able to take high resolution images of the topography of the surface and map the polar caps, both of which are expected to help scientists understand surface events like dust storms.

According to ISRO scientists, the proposed mission could launch as early as November 2013, which would have the spacecraft enter into orbit around Mars in September 2014. A launch so relatively soon is appealing to many Indian scientists, many of whom argue that a mission to Mars should take priority over a mission to the Moon.

After all, has already reached the Moon with the successful Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft. Why not keep the momentum going and aim for a new and exciting target with the next mission?

Explore further: Mars under the spotlight again

Related Stories

Mars under the spotlight again

March 13, 2006

Relieved UK scientists are celebrating the news that NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) appears to have smoothly entered Mars orbit on Friday night (March 10th). Entering orbit is one of the most critical times for ...

Mars Express - 5000 orbits and counting

November 23, 2007

On 25 December 2003, Europe’s first Mars explorer arrived at the Red Planet. Almost four years later, Mars Express continues to rewrite the text books as its instruments send back a stream of images and other data. Today, ...

Mars Express instrument under investigation

September 13, 2005

ESA has started a technical investigation into the Planetary Fourier Spectrometer (PFS) on board Mars Express, after a problem developed in the instrument a few months ago.

Mars Express mission extended

September 22, 2005

ESA’s Mars Express mission has been extended by one Martian year, or about 23 months, from the beginning of December 2005. The decision, taken on 19 September by ESA’s Science Programme Committee, allows the spacecraft ...

Mars Express to rendezvous with Martian moon

July 16, 2008

( -- Scientists and engineers are preparing ESA’s Mars Express for a pair of close fly-bys of the Martian moon Phobos. Passing within 100 km of the surface, Mars Express will conduct some of the most detailed ...

Recommended for you

New eruptions detected in two luminous blue variables

December 12, 2017

(—Astronomers report the detection of new eruptions in two luminous blue variables, known as R 40 and R 110, located in the Magellanic Clouds. The finding, presented December 5 in a paper published on the arXiv ...

Juno probes the depths of Jupiter's great red spot

December 12, 2017

Data collected by NASA's Juno spacecraft during its first pass over Jupiter's Great Red Spot in July 2017 indicate that this iconic feature penetrates well below the clouds. Other revelations from the mission include that ...

Telescopes team up to study giant galaxy

December 12, 2017

Astronomers have used two Australian radio telescopes and several optical telescopes to study complex mechanisms that are fuelling jets of material blasting away from a black hole 55 million times more massive than the Sun.


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

2.5 / 5 (19) Jan 16, 2012
If the Indian government signs on to the idea, I say all power to them. The more scientific interest in our neighbor planet, the better.
1.3 / 5 (15) Jan 16, 2012
Great for India!!!
Maybe they'll release full resolution RAW images vs. the highly compressed and tampered images from MSSS, but I'm not holding my breath.
4.2 / 5 (11) Jan 16, 2012
conspiracy wingnut drivel

It must be exhausting to go through life with a brain that's been miswired for excess paranoia. I feel for you. Honestly. I wish people like you could get the help you need.

As to the proposed mission, this is fantastic. The more eyes and brains focusing on Mars, the better. Sounds like they have a very well thought out plan in terms of what kinds of information they're going after.
5 / 5 (2) Jan 16, 2012
"After all, India has already reached the Moon with the successful Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft. " A minor correction, That was chandrayaan 1 spacecraft. Chandrayaan is set to be launched sometime in 2014.

5 / 5 (7) Jan 17, 2012
For a time, America had Cat scratch fever, and it was driving them wild.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.