“Because of its limited instrument payload and mapping orbit, Mangalyaan is unlikely to add to the breadth or quality of data generated by other Mars missions,” Ghosh says.
NASA's Curiosity Rover was not able to find methane in the parts-per-million range on the surface of the planet—the upper limit for methane abundance is 1.3 parts per billion.
“This dims the hope that Mangalyaan will be able to detect it,” Ghosh notes. “The presence or absence of a methane signature from orbit is not definitive evidence for the presence or absence of Martian life,” he adds. But should the Indian probe provide a positive result, it could revitalize the quest for Martian methane.
In addition, a picture-perfect mission would represent a major feat for India's low-cost space program, positioning the emerging Asian giant as a budget player in the intensifying global space race. Meanwhile, given the high failure rate of Mars missions, ISRO scientists will have their fingers crossed and a prayer on their lips.