Mars mission crucial test on Sept. 24

India’s first mission to Mars will attempt to put a spacecraft in orbit around the red planet next week. India hopes to join the leaders of a global space race with the crucial test a low-cost project.

A successful outcome for the $74-million mission would stiffen Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s resolve to build new space launch facilities capable of handling heavier satellites, to make India a stronger player in the space technology market.

Launched last November, the Mars Orbiter Mission, called Mangalyaan, aims to study the planet’s surface and mineral composition, and scan its atmosphere for methane, a chemical strongly tied to life on Earth.

If the spacecraft does manage to enter orbit around Mars on Sept. 24, India would become the first country to succeed on its first try. European, U.S. and Russian probes have managed to orbit or land on the planet, but only after several attempts.

“Confidence is high,” V. Koteswara Rao, scientific secretary at the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), told Reuters. “All the operations done so far are successful and all the parameters measured are normal.”


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