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Mars mission possible before 2015



Udhagamandalam: After the Moon, it could be Mars before 2015 for the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) if the ambitious space missions drawn up by ISRO’s Advisory Committee for Space (ADCOS) up to the year 2020 are realised in the envisaged time frame. This was disclosed here by Prof. U.R. Rao, former Chairman of ISRO and currently Chairman of ADCOS, in his inaugural address at the four-day 15th National Space Science Symposium (NSSS-2008) which got underway on Tuesday.

It was on the basis of the recommendations made by ADCOS that the first lunar mission Chandrayaan-1, which will be an orbiter-cum-impactor mission, and the multi-wavelength X-ray astronomical satellite ASTROSAT have been undertaken by ISRO.

Chandrayaan-1, originally scheduled for an April launch window, is now postponed by a few months and will be launched by mid-2008. The mission is chiefly aimed at understanding the chemistry and mineralogy of the lunar surface. It comprises 11 instrument payloads, which include five indigenous experiments, two joint experiments of ISRO with external agencies and the remaining four wholly foreign.

According to ISRO sources, four of the payloads have been totally integrated with the lunar satellite and the remaining are in various stages of integration. ASTROSAT is expected to be launched in 2009.

ADCOS, Prof. Rao said, had recently constituted four major panels on Planetary Exploration, Astronomy and Astrophysics, Space Weather and Weather and Climate Science. In recent months the deliberations of these panels have resulted in the identification of candidate future scientific missions on the basis of which the Committee has drawn up a perspective plan up to the year 2020, that also includes programmes for the Eleventh Five Year Plan period 2007-2012, he said. The exercises of defining these missions are likely to be taken up in due course.

The identified missions include Chandrayaan-2, which ADCOS envisages to be a lunar orbiter mission again but this time with the possibility of including a lander-rover and robotic instruments to carry out, if possible, in situ analyses of lunar samples. Studies related to this mission are already on and Chandrayaan-2 is expected to be launched by 2012. Prof. Rao, in fact, expected this to be followed by more lunar missions.

Some other important future scientific missions that ADCOS has identified include:

A Mars Orbiter, to be taken up in the time frame 2009-2015, for the exploration of Mars with regard to the effect of solar wind, studies of its surface magnetic field, and search for palaeo-water; Asteroid orbiter or comet fly-by during the time frame 2009-2017, with the near-earth asteroid as the primary target; Space-borne solar coronograph by 2012 in the visible and infrared.

A twin-satellite mission is planned to probe the electromagnetic field of the near-earth space during 2008-2010; small satellites carrying primary payloads such as (a) a nadir-viewing multi-angle polarisation imager and multi-spectral sensor; (b) payload for measuring vertical distribution of aerosols; and, (c) IR spectrometer for measuring atmospheric trace gases by 2010.

Besides the small satellite scientific mission solar coronograph mentioned above, several other small satellite missions have also been proposed for the period beyond 2010.

As for the upcoming near-term scientific missions besides Chandrayaan-1, there is the Indo-Russian mission called RT-2, aimed at hard X-ray spectrometry and imaging, which will be flown aboard the Russian launcher Photon-Coronas and is scheduled be launched this year.

The other is the Indo-Israeli mission called TAUVEX, a UV imaging satellite, which will be launched along with GSAT-4 aboard ISRO’s launcher GSLV. This is also scheduled for launch in 2008.

With increasing scientific missions, where instrument design and fabrication is a critical area, a dedicated Space Science Instrumentation Facility (SSIF) is also proposed to be established shortly as a separate wing of ISRO.


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