Nasa’s Mars rover, Curiosity, coming up empty-handed in its search for methane in the planet’s atmosphere, is likely to throw a wet blanket on India’s forthcoming mission to the Red Planet.
The revelation is likely to affect Indian Space Research Organisation’s (Isro’s) Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), as one of the primary objective of the Rs450 crore venture is to detect the presence of methane, a gas that on Earth is a strong indicator of life, in the Martian atmosphere. A methane sensor for Mars is among the five scientific instruments onboard the MOM spacecraft.
Curiosity landed on Mars in August 2012 to determine whether the planet, which is the closest to Earth in terms of its atmospheric conditions, has or ever had the chemistry and conditions to support microbial life. According to Nasa, the roving laboratory performed extensive tests to search for traces of Martian methane.
The rover analysed Martian atmospheric samples for methane six times from October 2012 to June this year, but in vain. Data retrieved from Curiosity pointing to the inexistence of methane has given rise to concerns about the fate of Isro’s MOM, scheduled to be launched from Sriharikota.