MUMBAI: After successfully discovering water molecules on the moon in the mission he led back in 2008, Jitendra Goswami has set his sights on Mars. Professor Goswami, director of national space research institute the Physical Research Laboratory, is the planetary scientist supervising India’s first mission to the Red Planet. The Mars Orbiter Mission probe will hunt for telltale signs of methane in the Martian atmosphere, possible evidence for microbial life. If all goes well and the mission succeeds in reaching Mars, India will be entering a very select club that includes the former Soviet Union, the United States and Europe.
On the eve of the expected launch, Justin Rowlatt talks to Professor Goswami to find out why India wants to send a mission to Mars when other space programmes have scaled back their spending and ambitions. In front of a live audience made up of space scientists and the general public, they discuss the motivation behind this 300 million kilometre interplanetary trip, its chances of success, and what new insights into Mars might be revealed.
Justin Rowlatt, Presenter of Exchanges at the Frontier says “It is extraordinarily exciting to be in India at a time when the country is making history in space exploration. India’s space science does things differently and they confounded the world when they discovered water molecules on the Moon - they weren’t even looking for it! We will be at the epicentre of space research at the Physical Research laboratory in Ahmedabad with the team who hope soon to be analysing data from Mars. This Exchanges at the Frontier special will explore the implications of the mission for India on the world stage with the unique global perspective of the BBC World Service. “
The event is run in partnership with the Wellcome Collection; to apply for tickets to be in the audience visit www.wellcomecollection.org/goswami.
Exchanges at the Frontier will broadcast on BBC World Service at Saturday 2nd November at 5.30pm