Aspiring to join the select group of countries that have explored Mars, India will launch its space mission to the Red Planet in October-November this year, a top ISRO official said today.
"The (Mars Orbiter) mission is planned when Mars would be closest to the Earth. It would be launched either in the last week of October or the first week of November this year," Indian Space Research Organisation Chairman K Radhakrishnan said.
Mars comes very close to the Earth once in 26 months and the next such instance would occur during the last week of October and first week of November, he said at the convocation of Sathyabama University in Chennai.
By launching this mission, India would become part of the select few countries that have achieved this rare feat, he said.
India will be the sixth country to launch a mission to Mars after the U.S., Russia, Europe, Japan and China.
Under the mission, India will put in orbit a spacecraft using the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle. The satellite will undertake a 300-day journey to Mars.
Elaborating on the mission challenges, Radhakrishnan said the closest (apogee) and farthest (perigee) points in the satellite's orbit around Mars would be 317 km and 80,000 km respectively and studies on the planet can be done effectively when the satellite is closest to the planet.
"Since the communication delay would be over 20 minutes, we have to work harder," he said.
He also said the space agency was planning to launch 12 missions this year, including indigenous GSLV.