Bangalore: The first images of India's small satellite for the red planet, Mars, have finally been released. (See pics)
If all goes well with the launch and the very risky and arduous, millions of kilometres long journey, India may rendezvous with the red planet. The mission will cost in the range of 600 crores.
In a few weeks, the Indian Space Research Organisation or ISRO plans to launch a Nano car-sized unmanned satellite that will orbit Mars and study the planet's thin atmosphere. Since Mars is the nearest planet to Earth, if ever humans have to colonise it, the first and most necessary step is to understand the atmosphere and air around it.
The 'Mars craft' was unveiled today at the place it was born, the ISRO satellite facility in Bangalore. It could lift off within a few weeks from Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh. (Watch: India unveils maiden satellite to Mars)
It will take a year for the satellite to reach Mars, after which it is expected to orbit around the planet for at least six months.
K Radhakrishnan, chairman of ISRO, says the satellite, named Mangalyaan, will carry five scientific instruments which will hunt the Mars atmosphere for traces of water and Methane which could indicate if life exists there. Colour photos will be sent back regularly.
While seeking clearance from the government for its Mission to Mars, ISRO had said that it hopes to look at 'whether Mars has a biosphere or even an environment in which life could have evolved'. Experts suggest this is a tough question to answer through a tiny orbiting mission.
On Independence Day last year, in his speech to the country, the Prime Minister had formally announced that "Our spaceship will go near Mars and collect important scientific information. This spaceship to Mars will be a huge step for us in the area of science and technology."
In 2008, India successfully launched its maiden mission to the moon, Chandrayaan-1, which brought back the first clinching evidence of the presence of water on the parched lunar surface. Some say India's plans to explore Mars denote an ambition to beat rival China to it.
"We are not racing with anybody and the Indian mars mission has its own relevance", said Mr Radhakrishnan, but he admitted there is an element of 'national pride' involved with the mission.