India is ready for its first ever space mission to the Red Planet, with its Mars Orbiter Mission (or "MOM") set to launch as early as October 28th. And yeah – you bet your ass they're looking for methane.
Above: India’s Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) spacecraft being prepared for a prelaunch test at Satish Dhawan Space Centre SHAR, Srihairkota. Credit: ISRO
Via Universe Today:
Among other objectives, MOM will conduct a highly valuable search for potential signatures of Martian methane – which could stem from either living or non living sources. The historic Mars bound probe also serves as a forerunner to bolder robotic exploration goals.
If all goes well India would become only the 4th nation or entity from Earth to survey Mars up close with spacecraft, following the Soviet Union, the United States and the European Space Agency (ESA).
MOM is outfitted with an array of five science instruments including a multi color imager and a methane gas sniffer to study the Red Planet’s atmosphere, morphology, mineralogy and surface features. Methane on Earth originates from both biological and geological sources.
ISRO officials are also paying close attention to the local weather to ascertain if remnants from Tropical Cyclone Phaillin or another developing weather system in the South Pacific could impact liftoff plans.
The launch target date will be set following a readiness review on Friday, said ISRO Chairman K. Radhakrishnan according to Indian press reports.
According to the Indian Space Research Organisation, the mission objectives are as follows:
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.
Following are the major objectives of the mission:
A. Technological Objectives:
- Design and realisation of a Mars orbiter with a capability to survive and perform Earth bound manoeuvres, cruise phase of 300 days, Mars orbit insertion / capture, and on-orbit phase around Mars.
- Deep space communication, navigation, mission planning and management.
- Incorporate autonomous features to handle contingency situations.
B. Scientific Objectives:
- Exploration of Mars surface features, morphology, mineralogy and Martian atmosphere by indigenous scientific instruments.