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Updated: August 25, 2013 15:19 IST

Man can set foot on Mars: NASA scientist

Special Correspondent
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Anita Sengupta,member of the team that manned the Mars rover. Photo: Special Arrangement
THE HINDU Anita Sengupta,member of the team that manned the Mars rover. Photo: Special Arrangement

Anita Sengupta impressed with Indian students

Man could set foot on Mars one day, says Anita Sengupta, an Indian origin scientist at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), US.

"I hope and think within our lifetimes [it is] a real possibility and is feasible... Future manned missions to Mars are an eminently doable feat from the perspective of a scientific endeavour. But a lot depends on sustained adequate budgetary support, supply of resources and a (political) will for the mission,” said Dr. Sengupta, a scientist with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a California-based field centre of NASA.

‘Curiosity’ on Mars

Dr. Sengupta, who fronted a team of scientists that developed a robust parachute for the smooth landing of NASA’s car-sized robotic rover ‘Curiosity’ on Mars, is currently in the city under the auspices of the US Consulate in Chennai to get children and youth excited in space exploration.

Her trip to cities, which include her father’s hometown Kolkata, Mumbai and Bangalore, coincides with the anniversary of the Mars mission.

The technologies for orbital, landing rover and human missions have some level of similarity, but they also vary. “Technically, there could be some similarity, but, for a manned mission, we need to adapt the spacecraft to a hypersonic aerodynamic acceleration regime.

We might also need a much larger vehicle than the one we used for Curiosity,” she said during an interaction with journalists. An aerospace engineering expert who worked on the Entry, Descent and Landing part of the Curiosity mission, Dr. Sengupta said one of the many challenges was to design a parachuting system that could deal with a heavier payload and larger drag area. “Curiosity has been doing such a fine job of exploring Mars since it landed on Gale Crater a year ago that it has taken us longer than scheduled to move it to the foothills of Mount Sharp,” she said.

The scientist and her team are currently developing an atomic physics experiment for the International Space Station, called the Cold Atom Laboratory (CAL). "It will be the first demonstration of forming a Bose Einstein Condensate in space. It is an experiment that will go in the International Space Station," she said.

The mission would explore ultra cold quantum gases on orbit, with the formation of a Bose Einstein Condensate, which could be thought of as another state of matter. “The idea is to create a lab floating in the space with tests carried out through remote control from earth,” Dr. Sengupta said.

Of her experience with children from India, Ms. Sengupta said she was pleased that they were familiar with space missions, especially those led by US.

“Some of the questions I got were very technical in nature,” she said.

The next time she comes here on an educational outreach initiative, she would like to address children from smaller towns and rural areas, the scientist said.

This article has been revised as Dr. Sengupta was earlier misquoted saying that Man would set foot in Mars in 5 to 15 years. The error is regretted.

From H G Wells through Orson Wells and Carl Sagan to Dr Sengupta from wondering if there were green men and canals to Curiosity, has been a long journey. I do hope we do not make Mars and the rest of the universe a dustbin as we have made of earth.

from:  mohansingh
Posted on: Aug 26, 2013 at 17:20 IST

Man could set foot on Mars one day, says Anita Sengupta Of course we will be on Mars one day... But she should explain why NASA could not go back to Moon in 50 years?? Or will we go to Mars just like we went to Moon???

from:  Pradeep
Posted on: Aug 25, 2013 at 20:00 IST

hope our children will be inspired by Anita Sengupta. Thanks and Congratulation to the NASA Scientist for the efforts she is making to educate the children of parental country.

from:  raheem
Posted on: Aug 24, 2013 at 18:31 IST

From H G Wells through Orson Wells and Carl Sagan to Dr Sengupta from wondering if there were green men and canals to Curiosity, has been a long journey. I do hope we do not make Mars and the rest of the universe a dustbin as we have made of earth. mohansingh

from:  mohansingh
Posted on: Aug 24, 2013 at 14:46 IST

Man may set his foot in other stars other than earth but their stay there and continuity is very much doubtful.

from:  Mohanan K.N.
Posted on: Aug 24, 2013 at 07:12 IST
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