YENI DELHI (CIHAN)-
A rocket carrying a 1.35-tonne unmanned probe will blast off at
"The countdown is progressing well, as scheduled," said
The timing led to speculation that
"We are in competition with ourselves in the areas that we have charted for ourselves," ISRO chairman
The golden-coloured probe, about the size of a small car or very large refrigerator, has been hurriedly assembled and will be carried by a rocket much smaller than American or Russian equivalents.
Lacking the power to fly directly, the 350-tonne launch vehicle will orbit earth for nearly a month, building up the necessary velocity to break free from our planet's gravitational pull.
Only then will it begin the second stage of its nine-month journey which will test
More than half of all Mars projects have failed, including
"I was very nervous during the moon mission, but after seeing the precision with which our people took Chandrayaan to the orbit I have to be confident," top Indian space scientist
The total cost of the project is just
There have been recent setbacks for
"The biggest problem is to understand the navigation issue from the earth's orbit to the Martian orbit," ISRO chief Radhakrishnan told AFP.
The programme also has to contend with domestic critics who say a country that struggles to feed its people adequately and where more than half have no toilets should not be splurging on space travel.
"An improvement of basic social indicators should be the priority and then we can have many missions to Mars," activist
ISRO counters that its technology has helped with economic development through satellites which monitor weather and water resources, or enable communication in remote parts of the country.
One of its discoveries appeared to undercut the purpose of the Indian mission which is to find evidence of methane which would lend credence to the idea of Mars supporting a primitive form of life.
A study of data from Curiosity published in September found that the rover had detected only trace elements of methane in the Martian atmosphere.
"Remember that it (Curiosity's methane reading) is for a single spot. One point doesn't make it a story for the whole planet," said Goswami, who was lead scientist for the moon mission.
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