This Article is From Sep 22, 2013

India's Mars mission: Mangalyaan to begin its 10-month journey on October 28

Experts say this is really now an Asian space race between India and China - the two regional rivals - on who reaches Mars first.

New Delhi: October 28 is set to be the next big day for the Indian space programme as the Mangalyaan (or Mars Orbiter) will lift-off from Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh that day using the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle or PSLV.

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is getting ready for the launch of the Rs 450-crore satellite, which weighs 1350 kg. It will take about 10 months to reach the orbit of Mars traversing a distance of over 400 million kilometres.

"The satellite is in the final stages of testing. We have also got thumbs up from the review committee," an elated ISRO Chairman K Radhakrishnan told NDTV.

Mr Radhakrishnan says Mangalyaan will carry five Indian scientific instruments to study the atmosphere of the Red Planet, look for traces of Methane which could indicate if life exists on Mars, take colour photos of the planet and analyse the presence of water there.

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 lunar surface. Some even suggested that this is really now an Asian space race between India and China - the two regional rivals - on who reaches Mars first.

Other experts suggest that it is not so much the inter-planetary configuration but earth bound geo-political considerations that may be weighing on India's mind referring to the space rivalry between India and China. "We are not racing with anybody and the Indian Mars mission has its own relevance," says Mr Radhakrishnan. He, however, admits that there is an element of 'national pride' involved with the mission.

Some suggest after the success of Chandrayaan-1, the natural stepping stone for India was to try to reach Mars. Mr Radhakrishnan said, "We had to prepare the spacecraft on a fast-track mode as we had a deadline to meet. Though it is a complex spacecraft, but our people have done it." He also said that it is a critical mission for the country because after Chandrayaan-1 ISRO is looking to go deeper into the space, on a longer voyage.