India's mission to Mars in November next year will attempt to crack the "methane mystery", former chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation Prof U R Rao said on Tuesday.
The veteran space scientist told PTI that when the country undertook the Chandrayaan-1 lunar mission, "we didn't know we are going to detect water (on the moon)", he said referring to an earlier ISRO achievement.
"It is the first time this has happened (detecting water on the moon) in spite of the fact that we were a late entrant (in moon exploration)."
Rao, chairman of the selection committee which finalised experiments to be conducted in relation to the Mars orbiter mission, said, "We have selected very good experiments. One of the experiments is essentially to look for methane, where the methane comes from (in the Martian atmosphere)."
He said there are many open questions about the Red planet.
Right now, there is life only on earth. "Venus is so near to earth, yet it's so inhospitable. Mars is so near to the earth, yet it has a very, very thin atmosphere, very little of oxygen. Mars has some magnetic materials all over but it does not have a magnetic field, why? There is very little known of Mars," Rao observed.
Rao said Mars has a great amount of relevance because in about "500 years or fewer, we might be able to use Mars as a resource for earth".
"We are running out of resources in the world," he said. "There are many people who believe Mars can be made hospitable and of course it requires a lot of effort."
According to ISRO officials, the cost of the proposed unmanned Mars orbiter mission is Rs450 crore. The orbiter is planned to be launched using India's Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-XL) from Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota.