CHENNAI: After the success of Mars orbiter rover ‘Curiosity‘, NASA would send another rover to the red planet by 2020 to explore “biosignatures” on Mars, a top scientist of the American space agency said today.
“Yes. By 2020, we will send another rover which has similar architecture (of Curiosity) with new instruments that are geared more towards looking for biosignatures (on Mars),” Lead Scientist of NASA’s MARS Exploration Programme Michael Meyer told PTI here.
Asked what would happen to Curiosity, he said, “Curiosity will keep going. In fact, this month, the rover is celebrating its 10th anniversary. It is still going. It is still doing good science. By 2020, Curiosity will also be there”.
On India‘s maiden Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) launched by Indian space agency ISRO, Meyer said it would be “fantastic” for science and for India.
“It is a fantastic mission for India. It is working so well and I am very hopeful that the mission will be great for science. I also think it will be great for India,” he said.
Launched from Satish Dhawan Space Centre of Sriharikota on December 4, MOM has escaped the Earth’s sphere of influence and is now on course to reach Mars after a journey of about 300 days.
The Rs 450-crore project would provide the scientific community better opportunities in planetary research. It is expected to enter the orbit of Mars by September 24, 2014.
Earlier, answering questions from students of the Indian Institute of Technology at its annual conference ‘Shaastra’ here, the American scientist said finance was one of the reasons for National Aeronautics Space Agency (NASA) not exploring much on the Moon.
“The reason we stopped (sending rockets to Moon) was because it was expensive. Of course, there is a lot more to be done on the Moon,” he said.
Asked if there was a possibility of sending more rovers in one mission, he said it comes with a risk. “The problem is that you do not have that much money to do it right now.”
On the issue of space debris falling to Earth, Meyer said, “Space debris is an issue. We (NASA) spend some amount of time on tracking them.”
Meanwhile, India today successfully launched a Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV D5) with an indigenous cryogenic engine from the spaceport of Satish Dhawan Space Centre, entering a select club of nations.