Dr. K. Radhakrishnan (C) chairman of space commission, secretary, department of space, government of India and chairman of Isro along with scientists releasing a book ‘Reaching For The Stars’ India’s Journey to Mars and Beyond” in New Delhi on Wednesday. Photo: Hindustan Times
Dr. K. Radhakrishnan (C) chairman of space commission, secretary, department of space, government of India and chairman of Isro along with scientists releasing a book ‘Reaching For The Stars’ India’s Journey to Mars and Beyond” in New Delhi on Wednesday. Photo: Hindustan Times

Mars, sun, moon, maybe even Mercury, are Isro’s next targets

Much of Isro's work is still aimed at bettering the quality of life on Earth, says Radhakrishnan

New Delhi: India’s space agency has an eye on, well, space, but much of its work is still aimed at bettering the quality of life on Earth, by better communication, for instance, K. Radhakrishnan, chairman, Indian Space and Research Organisation (Isro), said at the launch of the book Reaching for the Stars: India’s Journey to Mars and Beyond, authored by Pallav Bagla and Subhadra Menon.

India’s space agency has achieved global acclaim for its successful low-cost mission to Mars and it has more plans for the red planet, Radhakrishnan said.

“MOM (Mars Orbiter Mission) is only the beginning. Now that we have proven the capability to put an orbiter in the precise orbit, we are looking at bigger scientific mission for Mars. Not in the next opportunity of 2016, but it could be in 2018 after the scientific studies are completed."

During a panel discussion at the event, Isro’s scientists also laid out their vision for the next big thing—a rocket to Mercury. “Of course, we need far greater and complex technology to reach Mercury, but that planet is a gravitational well, and not much is known about the planet as very few missions have reached there," said one of the panellists, former Isro chief and cosmologist U.R. Rao.

Rao was the person who had given the first set of ideas for scientific experiments to be conducted for India’s mission to Mars. A committee headed by him came up with an agenda for Isro to study the Moon, Mars and the Sun.

The Aditya satellite, which will study the sun and has a 2020 launch date, aims to achieve a fundamental understanding of the physical processes that heat the solar corona and accelerate the solar wind.

As for the moon, Radhakrishnan said Isro will be putting an indigenous lander and rover on the moon as part of Chandrayaan II in three years.

The Isro chief also stressed on the importance of the industry and academicians for the Indian space programme. “We started a modest programme of sponsored research in colleges and research institutes. Now, we are planning on getting into the next level where we will set up centres of excellency in these institutions which will take up cutting-edge research and development of a higher magnitude. If we have to become world leaders in areas of space, it is there that we have to focus," said Radhakrishnan.

Isro’s next important mission, the test flight of the geosynchronous satellite launch vehicle Mark III is expected to take place in December. If successful, India would become capable of launching satellites weighing up to four tonnes, boosting its position in the commercial satellite launch market.

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