MUMBAI: Nasa’s ambitious $2.5 billion unmanned mission to Mars, designated as the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL), slated to lift off on Saturday at 8.15pm (IST) “will look for habitability, but not exactly for signs of life,” Amitabha Ghosh, head of Nasa’s science operations
working group, announced on Thursday at a press conference.
Addressing mediapersons 48 hours prior to the lift-off from the Cape Canaveral Air Force station in Florida, Ghosh said that the earlier Nasa missions to the Red Planet followed the dictum ‘follow the water’.
“This mission will look for habitability,” he explained.
Ghosh explained that the mission will assess whether the area where it lands has ever been a potential habitat for Martian life.
“Whether life has existed on Mars is an open question, which this mission by itself is not designed to answer,” he said. He, however, ruled out the possibility of a manned mission to Mars in the near future, since the technology does not exist.
“It will cost trillions of dollars,” he said.
With the help of a film, he said that the MSL consists of a 8,463-pound rover named ‘Curiosity’, which is the size of a car and is equipped with a suite of 10 scientific instruments. Of the 10 instruments, one is from Russia and the other from Spain.
Among the instruments is a Mars Descent Imager (Mardi) which will record a colour video of the ground below during the final few minutes of its flight to the surface of planet Mars.
“It is like an aircraft’s black box,” he stated.manned mission to mars, Cape Canaveral Air Force, scientific instruments, Mars Science Laboratory, mission to mars <BR/>