This Article is From Nov 04, 2013

Global excitement about India's Mars mission

Washington DC/Bangalore: Don't be misled by the small size and low cost, India's Mangalyaan is truly a 'Chota Bheem' with a big punch! This tiny machine is reason for a global buzz as it is India's first attempt and all it costs is about 35 million dollars (Rs 450 crores). In comparison, the US has several current missions operating on Mars. Having made more than 20 attempts, the most spectacular is the rover named Curiosity that is literally painting the planet red perambulating in the Gale crater. To gauge the mood, NDTV caught up with General Charles Bolden, the head of American space agency NASA.

You have an Indian mission to go up to Mars later this year called Mangalyaan or the Mars Orbiting Mission. You have the MAVEN mission from NASA which is also going up. Both are atmospheric study missions. Is it exciting to have two countries independently and simultaneously going to Mars?

General Charles Bolden:
It's always exciting to have as many countries as possible participating in exploration efforts, particularly Mars. We were there with Curiosity... It is exciting to have the United States and India join together and now getting ready to do more studies on Mars's atmosphere, a place that we don't know a lot about. Your mission is going to be looking at Martian atmosphere. We're providing support through communications, data and other types of...

NDTV: So NASA is supporting India for the mission?

General Charles Bolden:
We are in partnership. We're providing communication support as well as navigation support, so fantastic.

What is exciting the global community the most is this less than three kilogram instrument called Methane Sensor for Mars. In over half a century of Mars exploration, this is the first dedicated methane gas sensor being orbited around the Red Planet. NDTV took a close look at the technology packed in this mission. The presence of Methane, also called 'marsh gas', could be a clinching signature of the presence of life on Mars.

Dr M Annadurai, Program Director, Mars Mission, ISRO, Bangalore, says "Possibly what Chandrayaan-1 has done, here also possibly we may be able to answer unambiguously the source of methane if it is there then where we will be able to answer in a much better way. I see a parallelism between Chandrayaan-1's water-finding versus methane on Mars."  

So, in a way, India's first baby steps to the Red Planet could answer that big question: are we alone in this solar system?