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February 6, 2016

1.Even as India prepares for a second mission to Mars, a team of scientists from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the Mars Society Australia and the Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeobotany, Lucknow, will mount an expedition to Ladakh this August to study the similarities of certain parts of the region’s topography and microbial life to Martian surroundings.

2.India’s second mission to Mars — scheduled to be in 2020 — will involve collaboration with France and may include a lander or rover — remote controlled vehicles — which can ostensibly better analyse a planet’s surface.

3.“This is the first time that India is part of the Spaceward Bound programme,” said Siddharth Pandey, who is among the coordinators of the expedition “and we hope to have the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) closely involved.” The Spaceward Bound is a NASA project that educates future space explorers and funds expeditions to places with extreme climate conditions.

4.Before Ladakh, there have been expeditions to the deserts such in Atacama, Chile; Mojave, California; Arkaroola, Australia as well as the Arctic and Antarctica, organised since 2006.