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France, India charting new orbit to jointly explore Mars, Venus

NEW DELHI (PTI): With Mangalyaan already an orbiter, putting a lander on Mars would be an interesting prospect and France is ready to work with India on it, says the chief of French Space Agency.

In an interview, Jean-Yves Le Gall hopes that Indian and French flags could fly to Mars and Venus.

Here are the excerpts of an interview:

Q) What is the agreement that has been signed between India and France on the upcoming mission to Mars?

A) It is related to exploring Mars. We know the ambitions of India to explore the Red Planet. We are very very impressed with what India is doing with Mangalyaan, which is currently orbiting Mars. In France, we have very skilled scientists for both Mars and Venus. Since there is already a project to explore Mars in India, we implemented an agreement to co-operate in the future on this project.

Q) So can one say, India & France will jointly go to Mars whenever the next mission happens?

A) On the next Indian mission to Mars, there will be a piece of French expertise. We are very proud of that since we have a long-standing co-operation with India in many different fields and now we are opening a new field with exploration of space.

Q) So will France consider putting a lander on Mars along with India, since Mangalyaan is already an orbiter?

A) It is clear that once you put a satellite in the orbit of Mars, the next step is a lander. It is not so easy, but since we are very skilled I am quite optimistic.

Q) So France is looking for a lander, which is one-step ahead and a big jump for India?

A) A lander on Mars would be very interesting, and we are ready to work on it.

Q) What do you think of India's maiden mission to Mars, Mangalyaan?

A) The mission is very impressive, it is a good example of 'Make in India' because total cost of Mangalyaan is US$ 60 million, which is lower than the cost of making the Hollywood blockbuster movie, Gravity. So it clearly shows that without big means but being very very smart you can perform very ambitious space missions, perhaps we can say at a low cost.

Q) Is France also looking for co-operation with India to study planet Venus?

A) With the global cost of space missions coming down, a mission to Venus can be considered at a much lower cost than a few years ago, so it is feasible. Hence, why not go to Venus.

Q) France and India also inked an agreement to make a new thermal imaging satellite, what is this mission?

A) This new satellite mission is really a follow up of the climate change meeting that took place recently in Paris and we decided to take it forward. We already have two joint satellites in space that are devoted to observation of climate, Megha-Tropiques that was launched in 2011 and SARAL-ALTIKA that was launched in 2013.

Now we are going to develop a new satellite specifically devoted to the observation of climate change. Observing the earth's surface in thermal-infrared. This special band of wavelength will help monitor climate change.

This will help understand what are the effects of climate change on vegetation. The three Indo-French joint earth observation satellites will help provide a better picture on how climate is changing.

Q) At the Indo-French Summit more agreements were signed on space than other areas, what is the third agreement about?

A) On India's upcoming OceanSAT satellite France will put an ARGOS payload, which will be devoted for search and rescue beacons using space as a platform.

Q) Where is the Indo-French partnership headed?

A) Both countries have great heritage of co-operating in space, both on rockets and satellites. French launchers launch Indian communications satellites and Indian rockets have launched French satellites. Today India is becoming the second biggest partner of France in space technologies, outside of Europe.

Q) How do you rate and compare the Indian space agency with other space agencies of the world?

A) I am always very impressed when I visit centres of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). What is most impressive is that people are fully dedicated; they have the same level of dedication as we had or America had in the early days of the space programme. In India there is the kind of enthusiasm and freshness, which is very very refreshing, which leaves a lot of room for optimism in the future.


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