By Pervez Hoodbhoy
When spacecraft Mangalyaan successfully entered the Martian orbit in late September after a 10-month journey, India erupted in joy. Costing more than an F-16 but less than a Rafale, Mangalyaan’s meticulous planning and execution established India as a space-faring country. Although Indians had falsely celebrated their five nuclear tests of 1998 — which were based upon well-known physics of the 1940s — the Mars mission is a true accomplishment.
Pakistanis may well ask: can we do it too? What will it take? Seen in the proper spirit, India’s foray into the solar system could be Pakistan’s sputnik moment — an opportunity to reflect upon what’s important. Let’s see how India did it: First, space travel is all about science and India’s young ones are a huge reservoir of enthusiasm for science. Surveys show that 12-16 year olds practically worship Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking, are fascinated by black holes and Schrödinger cats, and most want a career in science. They see more prestige in this than becoming doctors, lawyers, financial managers, or army officers. Although most eventually settle for more conventional professions, this eagerness leads India’s very best students towards science.
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By Ryan W. Neal, International Business Times
India has begun a countdown towards the launch of its first spacecraft bound for Mars. The Indian Space Research Organization will launch a Mars Orbiter Mission probe named Mangalyaan in the next few weeks.
Mangalyaan recently arrived at the Satish Dhawan Space Center in Sriharikota and will be loaded onto a launch vehicle that is just about ready for takeoff. Mangalyaan will orbit Mars and take photographs of the Martian surface and search for signs of methane in the Mars atmosphere. An array of senors aboard Mangalyaan will explore morphology and mineralogy of the Mars surface.
The Indian mission to Mars has a launch window between Oct. 28 and Nov. 19, which will get Mangalyaan to Mars in September 2014. It will orbit Mars for about six to 10 months.
If successful, India will become just the fourth nation to reach mars, along with the former Soviet Union, Europe and the US. Japan and China have both attempted Mars missions and failed.
The mission will cap off a successful year for ISRO. In 2013, India debuted environmental and communications satellites and a successful unmanned mission to the moon.
Mangalyaan will be joined by NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) orbital probe. Representatives of NASA told Space.com that having a diverse set of vantage points and sensors will contribute to a more complete understanding of the Martian geology and climate.