Sriharikota/New Delhi, Nov 3 (IBNS): The two-day countdown of India's maiden Mission to Mars, slated for Nov 5 launch, commenced at 06:08 am from Sriharikota in southern state of Andhra Pradesh on Sunday as the country's first interplanetary mission also quietly triggers a space race in the Asian region, especially between India and its giant neighbour China which is considered ahead in space missions but met with a failure in its own drive to reach the Red Planet two years ago.
The Mars Mission was announced by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh last year itself as if the mission is successful India would celebrate double Diwali this year taking a giant leap forward in space programme and perhaps beating China to reaching the Red Planet first.
During the 56 hour and 30 minutes countdown, the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), which is a giant 45-metre rocket will be fuelled and its health be checked.
The PSLV carrying ´Mangalyaan´ will blast off from Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota with an orbiter craft designed to orbit Mars in an elliptical orbit, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) said in a statement.
The ISRO on Saturday said that all the pre-countdown activities have been completed satisfactorily.
One of the main objectives of the first Indian mission to Mars is to develop the technologies required for design, planning, management and operations of an interplanetary mission.
Speaking to BBC New channel, K Radhakrishnan, chair of the Indian Space Research Organisation said, ´See, essentially when we talk about Mars and exploration of Mars, you look at life as one of those goals. So (we look for) the presence of methane in the Martian environment and see whether this methane, if it is there, has a biological origin or a geological origin.´
The design and realisation of a Mars orbiter has been developed with a capability to survive and perform Earth bound manoeuvres in a cruise phase of 300 days with Mars orbit insertion / capture, and on-orbit phase around Mars.
The mission has also been framed to explore surface features of Mars, morphology, mineralogy and Martian atmosphere by indigenous scientific instruments.
The launch of Mangalyaan, was earlier scheduled for Oct 28 but was postponed due to bad weather in the Pacific Ocean.
Two Indian ships, SCI Yamuna and Nalanda, which will monitor the health of the rocket and satellite as it sails over the ocean after being launched from India, had been delayed due to bad weather.
In case the weather does not permit the launch on Nov 5, the launch window will be open till Nov 19.
The Mangalyaan mission will cost Rs. 450 crores.
If the mission succeeds, ISRO will become the fourth space agency, after those in the US, Europe and Russia to have successfully sent a spacecraft to Mars.
In an interview to BBC News channel, Pallava Bagla, science editor of NDTV and author of a book about India´s space efforts,-Destination Moon, said the mission is particularly important as its success will bring the possibility of beating China to the Red Planet.
"If India does beat China to Mars you can imagine the national pride," he told BBC News.
International media is closely following India´s Mars Mission.
"ISRO, with a budget of 67 billion rupees and a decent pool of 16,000 scientists, engineers and other staff, would indeed brag if all goes well," wrote The Economist.
Yinghuo-1 was a Chinese Mars-exploration space probe, intended to be the first Chinese spacecraft to explore Mars but shortly after launch, the two burns to depart Earth orbit bound for Mars did not occur. It was launched along with the Russian Fobos-Grunt sample return spacecraft.
On Nov 17, 2011, Chinese state media reported that Yinghuo-1 had been declared lost by the China National Space Administration (CNSA). Yinghuo-1 and Fobos-Grunt underwent destructive re-entry on Jan 15 2012, finally disintegrating over the Pacific Ocean.
Image Wikimedia Commons