DC poll result: India doesn't need Mars mission


BANGALORE: Even as efforts are on to look for signs of life on Mars, one of Earth's closest neighbours at 56 million km, there aren't many takers for India's first-ever robotic mission to the Red Planet, the upcoming Mars Orbitor Mission (MOM). 
That's precisely because for India, reeling under gloomy economy and natural calamities, Mars can't be a priority. Does India really need the Mars mission investing huge amount at a time when poverty is on the rise? Doesn't Mars sound like a luxury?
At Rs 450 crore, the Mars mission is likely to be launched between October 21 and November 7, 2013. With this, India will become the sixth country to launch a mission to Mars after the U.S., Russia, Europe, Japan and China. Agreed, India needs to be competitive in space missions, but that should be planned at an appropriate time. Why can't the country first have efficient satellite warning system for floods and earthquakes?
Mars Mission has failed to impress many, including former ISRO chairman G. Madhavan Nair, who recently sparked a controversy when he called the Mars Orbiter Mission a 'publicity stunt'. Even in that controversy, he has got many people agreeing with him. 
According to a Deccan Chronicle online poll, 69% of readers said India should abandon the Mars mission and focus on other dire necessities while 31 pc of readers said India must go ahead as it is a knowledge mission.
The Mars Mission aims at demonstrating India's technological capability to send a satellite to orbit around Mars and conduct meaningful experiments such as looking for signs of life, take pictures of the red planet and study Martian environment. Experiments on these fronts are already on by other countries, so what's new in India's venture?
Explaining his scepticism of the Mars Orbiter Mission, Nair told DC, “The initial estimated 25 kg of scientific instruments (the spacecraft was to carry) was reduced to a meagre 14 kg. This may further come down, and there could be just five instruments. With such skeletal instruments on board, what meaningful work can be done by a spacecraft travelling at altitudes varying from 380 km to 80,000 km is the big question. This is exactly a case of cutting the head to suit the hat.”
But ISRO chairman K Radhakrishnan has his own explanation. "It's not for pride because the exploration of Mars has its own scientific value and possibly a future habitat which people are talking about...may be 20 years...30 years from now...it's possible," he said.
Apparently, the 1350 kg spacecraft will take at least 12 months to enter into a 372 km by 80,000 km elliptical orbit around Mars in November. And 12 months isn't a small period.
"If we succeed (in the mission), it positions India into group of countries who will have the ability to look at Mars. In future, certainly, there will be synergy between various countries in such exploration. That's taking place. That time India will be a country to be counted", he said.
But that is only if the mission is successful. Major challenges before space scientists on the Mars mission are expected to be on the critical mission operations and stringent requirements on propulsion, communications and other systems of the spacecraft. "We want to look at environment of Mars for various elements like Deuterium-Hydrogen ratio. We also want to look at other constituents - neutral constituents", Radhakrishnan said.
Unarguably, Mars is a subject of interest not just for scientists, but for the common man too. However, the main concern here is will the mission give new insights or will it just reiterate the old theories about Mars? 

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