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Mission Mars

Mission Mars
Highlights

Our nearest celestial neighbour Moon has made way to distant planet Mars in our solar system in popular imagination. Except astronomers and astrologers of yore, none had gone beyond the cool, smiling and benevolent Earth’s satellite that shows its face in phases for a fortnight before waning into darkness in equal measure.

Our nearest celestial neighbour Moon has made way to distant planet Mars in our solar system in popular imagination. Except astronomers and astrologers of yore, none had gone beyond the cool, smiling and benevolent Earth’s satellite that shows its face in phases for a fortnight before waning into darkness in equal measure.

Lunar luminance has inspired romanticists of all times to pen innumerable poems, write short stories and describe the moonlight as Cupid’s playfield. Nothing less than a modern day aphrodisiac, albeit naturally and freely available without doctor’s prescription, the lunar light and the Moon are passé now.

What’s in and what’s on the minds of people, scientists, tour operators and space businessmen is the bright Red Planet. It is attracting hordes of all and sundry like a magnet. The surge in earthlings’ interest in the hostile and uninhabitable planet – at least it doesn’t have conditions that we know to support life on this planet – is inexplicable. Otherwise, how can one explain the unprecedented rush to book one-way tickets to Mars? The most surprising thing is among those who want to set foot on Mars, Indians top the list. According to the latest figures, their number has swelled to over 20,000 out of a lakh applicants and it is going up. That means one in five Mars settler aspirants is Indian which is roughly the ratio of Indian population to that of the world’s.

It is phenomenal, considering the fact that Indians had rarely ventured out of their land in search of new horizons like the British, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Arabs and others who sailed the seas and crossed alien lands to discover the New World. We have taken all these in our own stride, embarking on journeys to seek truth, salvation and self-realization. In other words, spiritual discovery and search for mysterious inner world has overpowered our urges for finding anything beyond our domain.
Now, the massive Indian response to migrate to an unknown and unexplored land on a privately-funded project known as Mars One must have shocked Bas Lansdorp, Mars One CEO and co-founder. For, the trip, once again it has to be stressed, is only one way. Once gone, he/she gone forever.
The travel costs millions and before being put on an eight-month journey one has to undergo grueling training for months and once landed on Mars, one has to lead a cloistered life. Cocooned in cubicles, protected from extreme temperatures, the human colony on Mars is expected to have minimum comforts and the mutual company is those who come there in pairs to spend the rest of their life there.
Frightening? Not for all. Apparently, the Red Planet life is not for squeamish and faint-hearted. They have to survive at any cost, without falling sick, without stressing out themselves in the absence of a large community living and under the glare of 24 X 7 surveillance from the Earth.
According to Mission Mars, it will select a multi-continental group of 40 astronauts this year. Four of them - two men and two women - are set to leave for the Red Planet in September 2022, landing in April 2023. Another group of four will be deployed two years later. The astronauts, or Marsnauts, will undergo a mandatory eight-year training that includes all the survival techniques on Mars.
It is probable that Indians may find place in the first batch and before they land the Indian government itself is bracing for Mission Mars in October-November. Known as Mangalyam, the Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) is India’s maiden venture into deep space. Costing about Rs450 crores, the spacecraft had been built in a record 12 months and is expected to orbit Mars for six months. At around the same time, National Aeronautical and Space Administration (NASA) will send up its MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution Mission) to Mars. But the two will work independently. However, NASA would provide support to the ground-segment operations.
Thus in the coming months and years, Mars will be the planet to watch – on the TV -- not the Moon that makes nightly appearance. Meanwhile, several questions and issues are being raised about the viability of the manned Mars mission. First, its cost: Initial trip to cost $6 billion, to be entirely financed by sponsors, TV rights and Mars colonizers. Second, can travelers sustain months of space travel which has never been done in human history. It is different issue astronauts travelling to orbiting International Space Station and staying there for months.
They go with the hope of returning one day. In Mars case, there is no such hope and one should not wish for it before stepping into the space capsule. Finally, none will know or can predict what will be the fate of those who land on Mars. For Indians, venturing into outer space and settling down on a planet that is often invoked in rituals is going to another
loka.
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