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Mars Orbiter on track, comet no deterrent: Isro chief

India April 18(IM):A comet heading towards Mars' orbit in 2014 will not delay Isro'sRs450-crore Mars Orbiter Mission, said K Radhakrishnan, chairman, Indian Space Research Organization, of the country's premier space agency, on Wednesday.

"India's Mars Orbiter is on schedule. The five instruments are ready and will be integrated soon. The spacecraft sub systems are in the process of integration while the launch vehicle, PSLV, is also getting ready. It will be integrated from August onwards," said Radhakrishnan, at the sidelines of a national conference on 'Space Based Navigations' held at Isro Satellite Centre on Wednesday. Comet C/2013 A1, discovered on January 3 by Rob McNaught at the Siding Spring Observatory in Australia, is approaching Mars at a speed of 2 lakh km/hour. There's a probability of 1 in 8,000 chance that it might strike Mars. The Isro chief said it is yet to be studied how the comet might affect their observations.

"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". The Mars Orbiter, set to be launched on November 27, will take about 300 days to reach the planet, after leaving Earth's orbit. Once the satellite reaches Mars' orbit around September 2014, which is an electrical orbit of 500 km when it comes closest to mars, and 80,000 km at furthest, a number of experiments will be conducted by Isro. Some of them are looking at Mars with a thermal infrared imaging system, and also at the possible presence and source of methane in the Martian environment. "The Mars Orbiter Mission will essentially to prove the country's capability to reach the Martian orbit using its technology".

Five Payloads of Mars Orbiter MARS Colour Camera (MCC): Weighing 1.24 kg, it will take pictures in red, green and blue colours. It can capture a complete image of Mars in a single shot from an altitude of 80,000km. The camera will help understand the Martian dust storms or dust devils. A Thermal Infrared Imaging System: A 4.1-kg Thermal-Infrared Imaging Spectrometer will map the surface and mineral composition of Mars. Through this, scientists will know if there is hydrothermal activity that will help locate water. Lyman-alpha photometer: Among the other things, it will measure atomic hydrogen in Martian atmosphere. Martian Exospheric Composition Explorer: It will study the neutral composition of the Martian upper atmosphere. Methane Sensor for MARS: It will measure methane in the Martian atmosphere with a high level of accuracy.

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