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ISRO eyes mission to Mars; Govt sanctions Rs 10 cr

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NEW DELHI (PTI): After the challenging mission to moon, ISRO Wednesday said it has begun preparations for sending a spacecraft to Mars within the next six years.

Government has sanctioned seed money of Rs 10 crore to carry out various studies on experiments to be conducted, route of the mission and other related details necessary to scale the new frontier, said ISRO Chairman G Madhavan Nair.

"Already mission studies have been completed. Now we are trying to collect scientific proposals and scientific objectives," he told reporters on the sidelines of a day-long workshop of the Astronautical Society of India here.

He said the space agency was looking at launch opportunities between 2013 and 2015.

Chandrayaan-I, the country's maiden unmanned moon mission, appears to have fired the imagination of young scientists who have taken to space sciences and ISRO plans to tap this talent for its mission to Mars.

"A lot of young scientists are being brought into the mission, particularly from the Indian Institute of Space Technology, the Physical Research Laboratory, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research and other research laboratories," K Radhakrishnan, Director of Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, said.

He said the space agency would use its Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) to put the satellite in orbit and was considering using ion-thrusters, liquid engines or nuclear power to propel it further towards Mars.

According to preliminary plans, ISRO is likely to send a 500 kg spacecraft to Mars and has identified three launch windows one each in 2013, 2016 and 2018.

Though most of ISRO spacecraft, including Chandrayaan-I, are powered by solar panels, space scientists feel that energy from sunlight may not be sufficient and are exploring alternative propulsion systems.

"Solar energy may not be sufficient or viable. So we may have to go for nuclear," T A Alex, Director of ISRO Satellite Centre told PTI.

ISRO plans to put the spacecraft in an orbit around Mars and is yet to decide the altitude, details about the experiments it intends to carry out and the duration of the mission.

"We are still discussing whether to launch it as our exclusive mission or to invite international experiments," Alex said adding that these details and would be worked out soon.

India plans to land a robot on moon in 2012 during the Chandrayaan-II mission and is aiming to put humans in space by 2015.

An astronaut training centre is likely to be set up near Bangalore to select a crew of four persons from around 200 to undertake the seven-day human space flight.

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