|Few hours to launch India’s Mars mission
India launches its first mission to Mars later today, aiming to become the only Asian nation to reach the Red Planet with a program designed to showcase its low-cost space technology.
A rocket carrying a 1.35-tonne unmanned probe will blast off at 02:38pm local time from the Sriharikota spaceport off the southeast coast, beginning a 300-day journey to study the Martian atmosphere.
“The countdown is progressing well, as scheduled,'' said Deviprasad Karnik, spokesman for the Indian Space Research Organisation. “The weather is normal. Slightly cloudy but no problem.''
The Mars Orbiter Mission is known as “Mangalyaan.’’
The gold-colored probe, about the size of a small car, 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 India's scientists to the full, five years after they sent a probe called Chandrayaan to the moon.
More than half of all Mars projects have failed, including China's in 2011 and Japan's in 2003. Only the United States, Russia and the European Union have successfully reached there.—AFP