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India preps craft for first mission to Mars

Launch date expected in November 2013

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Not to be outdone by China in the space race, India is set to flex its muscles on the world stage, planning a mission to Mars late next year.

K Radhakrishnan, Chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), told reporters on Saturday that there will be a definitive announcement on the scientific research-based project by the government soon.

"A lot of studies have been done on the possible mission to Mars. We have come to the last phase of approvals," he said, according to Times of India.

The proposed Mars mission will apparently be focussed on the Red Planet’s origins and evolution, its climate and geography and whether life can be sustained there.

The project is unlikely to be on the same scale as NASA’s Mars rover missions, however.

The ISRO is aiming to launch an orbiter at the planet, loaded with 25kg of scientific kit, using tried-and-tested ‘workhorse’ the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle.

It will then be placed into an orbit of 500 x 80,000 km around the planet.

November 2013 is being touted as the preliminary launch date.

India has already achieved some success in space with its lunar orbiter, Chandrayaan-1, which was the first to discover the presence of water molecules on the Moon.

It aims to follow this up with Chandrayaan-2, a joint project with the Russian Federal Space Agency (RKA), which will aim to land a rover vehicle on the surface of the planet in 2014.

The ISRO will be hoping its mission to Mars is more successful than China’s brush with the Red Planet recently.

Its Yinghuo-1 satellite never reached Mars and was destroyed earlier this year, having been stranded in orbit after the Russian Fobos-Grunt spacecraft it was travelling with failed soon after launch. ®

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