Chennai/Sriharikota: Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), chief Dr. K. Radhakrishnan on Tuesday said the Indian Mars mission spacecraft will be moved from the earth- centric orbit towards the sun-centric orbit on December 1.
"The Mars orbital spacecraft is in good health. The apogee (farthest point from earth of the spacecraft is nearly 1.93 lakh km. On the first of December, we expect to move the spacecraft from the earth`s orbit towards Mars. That`s the main action," he said.
ISRO has successfully raised the orbit of the Mars Spacecraft for the fifth time since it launch on November 5 this year into the earth-bound orbit by the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C25)
The Mars Orbiter Mission blasted off from Satish Dhawan Space Centre in India`s Sriharikota with the satellite scheduled to start orbiting Mars by September, searching for methane and signs of minerals.
Only the United States, Europe, and Russia have sent probes that have orbited or landed on Mars. Probes to Mars have a high failure rate and a success will be a boost for national pride, especially after a similar mission by China failed to leave Earth`s orbit in 2011.
The probe`s 4.5 billion rupee price tag is a fraction of the cost of NASA`s (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution) mission, also due to launch in November.
Analysts say India could capture more of the USD 304 billion global space market with its low-cost technology.
Even so, it has drawn criticism in a country suffering from high levels of poverty, malnutrition and power shortages and experiencing its worst slowdown in growth in ten years.
India`s ties with its neighbour are marked as much by competition as cooperation. Government scientists deny any space race, but analysts say India has stepped up its programme because of concerns about China`s civilian and military space technology.
With the mars mission being successful so far, Dr. Radhakrishnan said: "As far as the GSLV is concerned, we are now assembling the vehicle, the first stage has been assembled already, the four strap-ons are getting ready for assembling and by December we must have the flight of GSLV (Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle)-D5."
India`s space programme began 50 years ago and developed rapidly after Western powers imposed sanctions in response to a nuclear weapons test in 1974, spurring scientists to build advanced rocket technology. Five years ago, its Chandrayaan probe landed on the moon and found evidence of water.
The relative prowess in space contrasts with poor results in developing fighter jets by India`s state-run companies.
The Mars Orbiter Mission plans to search for methane in the Martian atmosphere, the chemical strongly tied to life on Earth. Recent measurements made by NASA`s rover, Curiosity, show only trace amounts of it on Mars.
India`s mission will also study Martian surface features and mineral composition.