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RED planet, INDIAN mission: Space probe prepares for voyage to Mars orbit

Just $74m, 16 months from drawing board to launchpad

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UPDATE: Our latest coverage on the Mangalyaan mission, which has now launched, is here.

India's delayed Mars mission is on the countdown for launch, and barring further delays or mishaps, will begin its trip on Tuesday, November 5, from a southern coastal island near Chennai.

The Mangalyaan (Mars Orbiter Mission probe) was announced in August 2012, with a combined objective to prove that India has the technological ability to get to Mars, and to collect data for future missions.

The Mars probe would be, at least, a remarkable achievement of economy: at 450 crore Rupees, or about US$74 million, the price is more like that of a new university campus than a Mars mission.

However, unlike current US efforts, India isn't attempting to land on the Red Planet, but to reach orbit. The orbiter will be riding a PLSV C25 launch vehicle, due to lift off at 2.38 pm on November 5 (local time), with a 40 minute flight that will get it to Earth orbit.

The mission will spend between 20 and 25 days in Earth orbit before being pointed at Mars to spend nine months in travel, arriving in late September 2014.

There are five instruments on the orbiter, with scientific missions including studies both of Mars' surface and atmosphere, with a particular focus on searching for methane. NASA will be providing operational support to the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) in the form of post-launch ground monitoring.

ISRO will broadcast the launch from its website, here. ®

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