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Thursday, September 25, 2014

India makes history, Mars orbiter enters red planet's orbit

India has triumphed in its first interplanetary attempt by successfully putting a satellite into orbit around Mars.

India's low-cost mission to Mars successfully entered the red planet's orbit on Wednesday, crowning India as the first country to complete the trip at its maiden attempt.
The success of the Mars Orbiter Mission, lauded for its low price tag of Rs 450 crore, will boost India's five-decade-old space programme that newly-elected Prime Minister Narendra Modi aims to expand with better infrastructure and technology.

With a spacecraft around Mars, India joins a small group of nations that have successfully sent probes to orbit or land on Mars. Others, however, failed several times initially.

After rotating the Orbiter towards Mars, the main engine was fired 24 minutes from Mars to enter the Martian orbit, which will be about 500 km from its surface and 215 million km away from the Earth in radio distance.

The spacecraft will consume about 250 kg of liquid fuel with oxidiser.

The 1,350-kilogram orbiter will now circle the planet for at least six months, with five solar-powered instruments gathering scientific data that may shed light on Martian weather systems as well as what happened to the water that is believed to have existed once on Mars in large quantities.
Scientists broke into wild cheers Wednesday morning as the orbiter's engines completed 24 minutes of burn time and maneuvered into its designated place around the red planet.

Scientists described the final stages of the Mars Orbiter Mission, affectionately nicknamed MOM, as flawless. The success marks a milestone for the space program in demonstrating that it can conduct complex missions and act as a global launch pad for commercial, navigational and research satellites.

On Sunday, NASA achieved its own success in placing its Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution mission, or Maven, in position. The U.S. has two more satellites circling the planet at the moment, as well as two rovers rolling across the rocky Martian surface. The European Space Agency's Mars Express, launched over a decade ago, is still operating as well.

The success of India's Mars Orbiter Mission, affectionately nicknamed MOM, brings India into an elite club of Martian explorers that includes United States, the European Space Agency and the former Soviet Union.

Getting a spaceship successfully into orbit around Mars is no easy task. More than half the world's previous attempts — 23 out of 41 missions — have failed, including one by Japan in 1999.

The Indian Space and Research Organisation described the mission as flawless.

Modi hails India's Mars mission as historic

The success of India's successful mission to Mars "will go down as landmark in history", said Prime Minister Narendra Modi after Mars Orbiter Mission entered the orbit of the red planet.

"These are all accomplishments that will go down as landmarks in history," said a visibly happy Modi.

The prime minister said that the MOM was built "indigenously, in a pan-Indian effort, stretching from Bangalore to Bhubhaneshwar, and Faridabad to Rajkot".

He said: "India is the only country, to have succeeded in its very first attempt."

"With today's spectacular success, ISRO joins an elite group, of only three other agencies worldwide to have successfully reached red planet," he added amidst applause.

Modi, wearing a red coloured jacket, said that the "odds, were stacked against us".

"Of the 51 missions, attempted across the world so far, a mere 21 had succeeded. But we have prevailed," he said.

The prime minister said: "Travelling an incredible distance, of over 650 million or 65 crore kms,we have gone beyond boundaries, of human enterprise and imagination."

All you needed to know about India's low-cost mission to Mars

1 . At just Rs 450 crore, ISRO’S Mars mission is the cheapest so far. The Mars Orbiter Mission is India's first interplanetary mission to planet Mars with an orbiter craft designed to orbit Mars in an elliptical orbit. After a nine-month long journey, the Orbiter is scheduled to enter Mars’ orbit on September 24. To reach Mars, the spacecraft had to enter three phases, the earth centered phase, the helio centric phase and finally the Martian phase.

2. The orbit insertion will take place when the spacecraft will be 423 km from the Martian surface and 215 million km away (radio distance) from the earth.

3. Just 21 out of the 51 missions launched to Mars by different countries have been successful and that too by only three space agencies — NASA, European Space Agency and the Russian Federal Space Agency. The launch gives India an entry into an exclusive club of nations with interplanetary travel capabilities.

4. The Rs 450-crore Mars Orbiter Mission is India's first interplanetary mission to planet Mars with an orbiter craft designed to orbit Mars in an elliptical orbit. The project, built over a remarkably short period of two years, is primarily a technological mission considering the critical operations and stringent requirements on propulsion and other systems of the spacecraft.

5. Launched last November, the Mars Orbiter Mission, called Mangalyaan, aims to study the planet's surface and mineral composition, and scan its atmosphere for methane, a chemical strongly tied to life on Earth.

6. If the spacecraft does manage to enter orbit around Mars on September 24, India would become the first country to succeed on its first try. European, U.S. and Russian probes have managed to orbit or land on the planet, but only after several attempts.

7. The Rs 450-crore ($70 million) ambitious Mars Orbiter Mission was launched Nov 5, 2013, on board a polar rocket from spaceport Sriharikota off Bay of Bengal, about 80 km northeast of Chennai.

8. The pay loads include Lyman Lpha Photometer to measure the relative abundance of deuterium and hydrogen from Lyman- alpha emission; Methane Sensor for Mars to measure methane in the Martian atmosphere, and thus determine past existence of life; Mars Colour Camera to capture images and information about the surface of Mars and its composition; Mars Exopheric Neutral Composition Analyser, which is a spectrometer; and Thermal Infrared Imaging Spectrometer to map surface composition and mineralogy of Mars.

9. The Mangalyaan has been configured to carry out observations of the physical features of the Mars and also to carry out a limited study of the Martian atmosphere.

10. The criticism of the Mars mission being ‘a waste of money’ appears to be misplaced too. If one monetises the worth of national services that ISRO satellites are providing — communications, broadcasting, broadband, weather forecasting, disaster warning, ocean monitoring, education, navigation — it would be several times the budget of the space agency. ISRO’s annual budget is about one billion dollars, compared to $ 17.7 billion for NASA, $7.9 billion for Russian agency, $5.6 billion for the European Space Agency and $ 2.5 billion for China. Unlike the Chinese programme which is completely focused on national pride and superpower dreams, India’s space programme is linked to broader national theme of national development.

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