(AsiaNews / Agencies) - India is all set to launch its first Mars probe,
scheduled today at 9:08 GMT . The
Mars Orbiter Mission ( Mom) will lift off from the aerospace base of
Sriharikota (Andhra Pradesh ) on board a PSLV - C25 rocket. If
the launch goes well, the probe will travel in space for about 300 days and it
should reach Mars orbit in September 2014. If
successful , the Indian space agency will become the fourth in the world to
have completed a mission to Mars - after the United States , Russia and Europe
- surpassing other major Asian competitors : China, Japan and South Korea
In India the MOM launch of is also known as Mangalyaan ( "Martian ship " ) . The country approved the project in 2012: scientists are moving now in order to exploit the favorable alignment between the two planets, a condition that allows MOM to save fuel during the trip to Mars.
Some commentators have criticized the government's decision to embark on a mission to the value of 95 million dollars, while the country has one of the highest levels of malnourished children in the world. Supporters of the project, however, have countered that such a project is relatively "cheap", and that technological development will bring benefits linked to it in various sectors of the nation.
In theory, the Chinese probe Yinghuo 1 had reached the Martian orbit at the end of 2012, but only thanks to the help of the Russian spacecraft Phobos Grunt . It had been stuck in Earth's orbit shortly after its launch in November 2011.
The probe carries five loads, which will be used to study the atmosphere and the surface of the red planet: a Lyman Alpha Photometer , which measures the loss of water in the upper atmosphere and exosphere of Mars , a Methan Sensor for Mars , designed to measure the presence of methane and map sources , an Infrared Thermal Imaging Spectrometer ( TIS ) will measure thermal emissions to trace the composition of the surface and the presence of minerals. TIS will work with the methane sensor to determine the presence of life forms and nature. The presence of methane could in fact indicate the existence of life .