Skip to main content

India launches rocket in hope of joining elite Mars explorer club

By Dave Gilbert, CNN
November 6, 2013 -- Updated 1458 GMT (2258 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Only NASA, the former Soviet Union and Europeans have succeeded with Mars probes
  • India's spacecraft will explore the planet's surface features, minerals and atmosphere
  • ISRO chairman K Radhakrishnan says one of the biggest technological challenges is just getting there
  • NASA is due to launch its MAVEN probe to Mars later in November

London (CNN) -- India has launched a rocket it hopes will allow it to join an elite group of space explorers to Mars.

The country's space research organization (ISRO) launched its orbiter to the Red Planet on Tuesday -- only NASA, the former Soviet Union and the Europeans have previously been successful in operating probes from Mars.

Japan made an attempt with the Nozomi orbiter in 1998 but it failed to reach the planet and a Chinese probe was lost along with the Russian Phobos-Grunt mission in January 2012. The UK's Beagle 2 probe separated from the European Space Agency's Mars Express orbiter in 2003 but nothing was ever heard from the lander.

It will take 10 months for India's Mars Orbiter Mission to reach the Red Planet after lifting off from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre near Chennai. The probe will explore the planet's surface features, minerals and atmosphere.

Open Mic: India's Mars mission

ISRO is hoping to discover more about the loss of water from Mars, map the sources of methane gas, as well as collecting data about the two moons Phobos and Deimos.

But ISRO chairman K Radhakrishnan told CNN that one of the biggest technological challenges was just getting there. Many missions have failed to reach the planet while others have crashed on the surface or contact has been lost before the probes could send back data.

A race for space with new players

India's space program launched its first Earth satellite in 1975 and put an unmanned probe into orbit around the Moon in 2008. It plans to launch its own manned spaceflight in 2016, though an Indian cosmonaut, Rakesh Sharma, flew aboard a Soviet space mission in 1984.

The U.S. is aiming to build on the success of a series of robots that have roamed the surface of the Red Planet when it launches its own orbiter mission called Maven -- Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution spacecraft -- scheduled to launch on November 18.

The European Space Agency is working with the Russians on an ExoMars rover that is due to start its mission in 2018.

But private companies are also proposing trips to the Red Planet -- and some of them are only one-way.

The Mars One project wants to colonize Earth's neighbor, beginning in 2022 and the Inspire Mars Foundation wants to launch a man and a woman on a 501-day round-trip in 2018 without ever touching down.

Is India's Mars mission fueling Asian space race?

Explore Mars discoveries with CNN's interactive map

More on future Mars missions

CNN Mars full coverage

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
Space
June 29, 2014 -- Updated 1551 GMT (2351 HKT)
If you think you saw a flying saucer over Hawaii, you might not be crazy -- except what you saw didn't come from outer space, though that may be its ultimate destination.
June 27, 2014 -- Updated 0147 GMT (0947 HKT)
The U.S. space shuttle program retired in 2011, leaving American astronauts to hitchhike into orbit. But after three long years, NASA's successor is almost ready to make an entrance.
June 13, 2014 -- Updated 1421 GMT (2221 HKT)
When I first poked my head inside Virgin Galactic's newest spaceship, I felt a little like I was getting a front-row seat to space history.
June 10, 2014 -- Updated 2303 GMT (0703 HKT)
The sun is putting on a fireworks show again.
June 24, 2014 -- Updated 2302 GMT (0702 HKT)
A year is a very long time on Mars -- 687 days. NASA's Curiosity rover can attest that it's enough time for some unexpected life changes.
May 8, 2014 -- Updated 2205 GMT (0605 HKT)
It's hard to describe billions of years of cosmic history. But scientists have used a code to create a model of how the universe as we know it today might have evolved.
May 2, 2014 -- Updated 1800 GMT (0200 HKT)
At least one corner of the solar system may be serving up an ice-and-water sandwich, with the possibility of life on the rocks.
April 9, 2014 -- Updated 1503 GMT (2303 HKT)
Planetary nebula Abell 33 has taken on romantic proportions.
April 8, 2014 -- Updated 1555 GMT (2355 HKT)
You can't see it happening on Earth, but space itself is stretching. Ever since the Big Bang happened 13.8 billion years ago, the universe has been getting bigger.
March 26, 2014 -- Updated 2059 GMT (0459 HKT)
Scientists have added another celestial body to the short list of objects in our solar system that have rings around them.
March 27, 2014 -- Updated 1759 GMT (0159 HKT)
Astronomers have discovered a dwarf planet that's even farther away than Pluto.
February 28, 2014 -- Updated 1259 GMT (2059 HKT)
Our galactic neighborhood just got a lot bigger. NASA announced the discovery of 715 new planets.
March 18, 2014 -- Updated 1437 GMT (2237 HKT)
Scientists have made a breakthrough in understanding how our world as we know it came to be.
February 25, 2014 -- Updated 2027 GMT (0427 HKT)
From a sheep ranch in Western Australia comes the oldest slice of Earth we know.
February 19, 2014 -- Updated 1902 GMT (0302 HKT)
Cassiopeia A was a star more than eight times the mass of our sun before it exploded in the cataclysmic, fiery death astronomers call a supernova.
February 10, 2014 -- Updated 2207 GMT (0607 HKT)
Researchers have found clues that water could be flowing in the present, at least during warm seasons.
February 15, 2014 -- Updated 1602 GMT (0002 HKT)
The "jelly doughnut" rock that seemed to appear out of nowhere on Mars last month did not fall out of an extraterrestrial pastry box.
February 7, 2014 -- Updated 0356 GMT (1156 HKT)
It's a dot in the sky.
February 13, 2014 -- Updated 0744 GMT (1544 HKT)
Reports of Jade Rabbit's demise may have been premature.
January 16, 2014 -- Updated 1358 GMT (2158 HKT)
It's rare for astronomers to spot a planet in a star cluster. That's partly why a cluster called Messier 67 is so special: We now know that it has three planets orbiting stars.
ADVERTISEMENT