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‘The major challenge is the distance…the communication delay of 40 minutes’

An e-mail interview with Dr Mylswamy Annnadurai.

Published: October 6, 2013 3:26:00 am

An e-mail interview with Dr Mylswamy Annnadurai. The mission director for ISRO’s 2008 Moon Mission and director for its proposed Chandrayaan II programme,Mylswamy is also overseeing the Mars Mission:

How different is the preparation for this mission compared to Chandrayaan-I?

This mission is the logical extension of Chandrayaan-I. All the experiences and lessons learned are part of the preparations of this mission.

How does the ISRO project compare in terms of cost,objectives to the Mars missions by other countries?

Ours is a modest beginning but cost-wise,we are at the bottom of the line. This is more of a technological mission. Still we will carry five science instruments and the targeted orbit around Mars provides ample opportunity to carry out some unique experiments to look for methane,to do a temperature profile and mineralogy of Martian surface,Martian atmospheric study etc.

What are the challenges?

The major challenge is the distance from Earth—200 to 400 million kilometres. This poses two-way communication delay of as much as 40 minutes. So,approach to Mars with required velocity at proper location and direction is a must. This calls for doing orbit transferring at the precise time,precise orientation and precise velocity increments.

How important is this mission for India’s space programme?

It provides us the opportunity to test technologies like spacecraft autonomy,long-distance space communication,interplanetary navigation,miniaturised space payloads and systems etc.

What is the exact payload on the mission?

No foreign payload is accommodated in this mission. There are five Indian payloads—a Mars colour camera,a methane sensor,a Lyman alpha photometer,thermal infrared spectrometer and a mass spectrometer.

How many people are involved?

It is one of the many ongoing projects under the Indian Remote Sensing and Small,Science and Student Satellites programme which I am heading. The project in turn has four heads,namely a mission director for the launcher,a project director for the orbiter,a project director for ground systems and a mission director for post-launch operations. They are supported by a good number of scientists and engineers.

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