The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has said that the launch of Mars Orbiter - India's first mission to the Red planet - will not be delayed despite threats that a comet could be on a collision course with Mars in 2014.
ISRO is currently working on it most ambitious ₹450-crore Mars Orbiter Mission which has been scheduled for launch between October and November this year. The mission is developed to find signs of life and on why Mars lacks atmosphere.
A comet called 2013 A1 (Siding Spring), discovered by astronomer Rob McNaught on 3 January, is all set to make a close approach to Mars in October 2014. Earlier, NASA researchers had announced that there was a 1 in 8,000 chance that the comet might crash into the Red planet. But, revised calculations suggest there is only 1 in 120,000 chance that there could be a possible impact.
Even as there is only a remote chance of a comet strike, new data suggests that the comet would fly closer to the planet than what was previously estimated, reports Space.com.
Despite all this, ISRO has announced that there would not be any delay in the launch of the Mars Orbiter. ISRO Chief K Radhakrishnan said on Wednesday that the Mars Orbiter will be launched as per schedule and added that there wouldn't be any effect on the spacecraft.
"The comet could bring some constituents, but we don't expect any effect on the spacecraft. It will pass 50,000 km away from Mars' surface. We will get more information on the comet in future and scientists are looking at all possibilities," he said, according to a leading daily.
The Mars Orbiter will carry a total of five payloads weighing about 14.49 kg. It will be equipped with a methane sensor to determine the presence of methane, a sign suggesting that life once existed on the Martian planet. The ISRO chief said that the instruments are ready and will soon be integrated.
The orbiter will be launched using the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLC) from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh.
The Mars Orbiter is expected to exit the Earth's orbit on 26/27 November. It will take over 300 days to travel towards the Red Planet. The orbiter will be placed an elliptical orbit at a closest distance of 500 km from the surface of Mars, while the farthest point will be 80,000 km.