As India’s Mars Orbit Mission, Mangalyaan, is on its way to creating history, here are 8 facts about the mission that make it the most amazing inter-planetary space mission in the world, regardless of the final outcome!
The Mars orbiter satellite from India, Mangalyaan, which has been on an exhausting journey towards Mars since November 5, 2013, reached an important milestone when it passed a crucial test on Monday, September 22, 2014.
Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) officials reported that the Mangalyaan’s main liquid engine test firing was successful. The engine had been lying inactive for the orbiter’s entire journey so far and it was a concern whether it will function efficiently and timely on demand.
This successful four seconds burn on Monday has corrected the trajectory and has also ensured that the rocket is functioning properly and is ready for the 24 minutes long firing on September 24.
This main test engine was referred to as “Kumbhakaran”, the sleeping demon, which has been “awakened” now.
“We had a perfect burn for four seconds as programmed. The trajectory has been corrected. MOM will now go ahead with the nominal plan for Mars Orbit Insertion,” said ISRO ’s Facebook Page.
The satellite is carrying 1 large rocket motor and 8 small thrusters. The large engine has been functioning successfully since 1992 in over 24 missions, which gave confidence to the team that it will function flawlessly this time as well.
Two parallel circuits were used to start the larger rocket motor as per plan A. The ISRO team had a plan B where they would burn the eight small engines to slow down the satellite in case the main engine didn’t burn properly.
“All commands have been uploaded and the satellite will perform the tasks automatically,” said Mission Controller B N Ramakrishna.
The successful test has made India come a step closer to becoming the first Asian country to place a spacecraft in the Mars orbit in its first attempt.
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Here are 8 reasons why India’s Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) is just amazing:
- The Mangalyaan mission cost India $73 million (~Rs.450 crores) which is even cheaper than an eight lane bridge in Mumbai which cost $340 million. It is less than the budget of film “Gravity” which was about $105 million and about one-tenth of what the US has spent on MAVEN, making it undoubtedly the most cost-effective inter-planetary space mission to have ever been undertaken anywhere in the world!
- In real terms, when distributed over the population of 1.2 billion, every Indian has contributed Rs.4 per towards the mission.
- Mangalyaan will observe the environment of Mars and look for various elements like methane (marsh gas), which is a possible indicator of life. It will also look for Deuterium-Hydroden ratio and other neutral constants.
- The orbiter weighs 1,350-kg, which is even less than the weight of an average sports utility vehicle
- The manufacturing of Mangalyaan took 15 months while NASA took five years to complete MAVEN.
- Mangalyaan is the first spacecraft to be launched outside the Earth’s sphere of influence by ISRO in its entire history of 44 years.
- ISRO will be the fourth space agency in the world after National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) of the US, Russian Federal Space Agency (RFSA) and European Space Agency to have successfully undertaken a mission to Mars.
- Considering that Mars is about 670 million kilometers from the Earth, the cost of the ride works out to about Rs.6.7 per kilometre – cheaper than what even autorickshaws charge anywhere in India!
The next step
After a successful test and verification, the next challenge is yet to pass on Wednesday when the engine will be required to fire for 24 minutes to slow down the satellite to make a smooth and successful entry into the orbit of Mars.
“The satellite is now traveling at a very high speed of 22 kilometers a second and needs the thrust of the engine to reduce that velocity so that it can enter into Martian orbit,” said AjeyLele, author of “Mission Mars: India’s Quest for the Red Planet”.
For the next six months, Mangalyaan will be in the Mars orbit recording various data and information. The rocket is carrying a Lyman Alpha Photometer which measures the relative abundance of deuterium and hydrogen. This will allow the scientists to understand the loss process of water from the planet.
Methane Sensor for Mars will measure and find the source of Methane. Along with this, the tri colour Mars colour Camera will send images and information about the surface features of Mars along with measuring its climate.
Mars Exospheric Neutral Composition Analyser (MENCA) will be used for particle environment studies and will analyse the neutral composition in the range of 1 to 300 amu with unit mass resolution.
Probes to Mars are often not successful and have a high rate of failure. Of the 51 missions so far, only 21 have succeeded. However, as the country eagerly waits for the Red Planet Day on September 24, former chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation, G Madhavan Nair, has said that the spacecraft has a 90 percent chances of success. We wish it a 100 per cent!