India’s space agency, ISRO, has successfully launched ‘Mangalyaan’, its maiden mission to Mars. The country is making several sincere efforts to boost its position in the field of space programmes. But a million dollar question here arises is ‘why should India send a mission to Mars when millions are in poverty?’

This was a sincere question that came before ISRO chairman K Radhakrishnan by a foreign journo during a press conference.

Defending his position the ISRO chief told him about the benefits of the space programme, but the journalist persevered. The scribe said, benefits of the space programme are evident, but not so much the benefits of going to Mars, especially for the poor.

Radhakrishnan then talked about how not going to Mars will make Isro rapidly out-of-date with technology. It is not clear whether all the hundreds of journalists assembled at Sriharikota were entirely satisfied.

Talking more about Mars mission, he said, “Mars is one of the hottest topics, if not the hottest, in astronomy today. Understanding Mars is key to understanding the Earth, its past and future. Mars may once have had life and its conditions four billion years ago were good for life. Understanding Mars is necessary to design the future Earth.”

mars

Shedding light on the country’s space missions, he said, “The entire world can learn from India when it comes to low-cost space engineering. India, being a large country with a large scientific infrastructure, has an obligation to invest in space science. This is particularly so because ISRO’s budget is frugal. The Mars mission is a drop in the ocean when the total budget of the country is considered.”

Here are some facts about the project:

•    The total cost of the Mars mission is USD 73 million.

•    One of the objectives is to develop the technologies required for design, planning, management and operations of an interplanetary mission.

•    The mission aims to explore Mars surface features, morphology, mineralogy and search for methane in the Martian atmosphere using indigenous scientific instruments.

•    Payloads on the satellite include instruments for studying the atmosphere, particle environment and surface imaging. These include the Lyman Alpha Photometer, a methane sensor, a composition analyser, a camera and an imaging spectrometer.

•    The Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle will launch the 1,337 kg Mars Orbiter satellite as part of its 25th mission.

•    The satellite is scheduled to reach the Mars orbit in September 2014 and is designed to circle the Red Planet in an elliptical orbit of 366 km X 80,000 km.