India’s first space mission to Mars

November 5, 2013

International

India’s first space mission to Mars
Indian Space Research Organization’s historic Mars Mission lauch

India Mars

The Times of India

CHENNAI-“Everything is going on fine; but then, anxiety is a human trait.” That – coming from Indian Space Research Organization (Isro) satellites program director Mylswamy Annadurai — summed up the mood at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota on Monday, the eve of India’ first Mars orbiter mission.

Some 1,000 scientists have been checking every parameter at the spaceport from where PSLV-C25 will lift off at 2.38pm, carrying the Mars orbiter. And rocket science sought to co-opt spiritualism. Carrying on with a tradition followed by his predecessor G Madhavan Nair, Isro chairman K Radhakrishnan offered pujas at the Tirupati Venkateswara temple, about 100km from the launch pad, with miniature replicas of the rocket and the Mars orbiter spacecraft.

Coming out of the temple, Radhakrishnan told reporters: “It’s a long mission, and the spacecraft is expected to reach the Mars on September 24, 2014.” After the countdown began at 6.08am on Sunday, customary checks and propellant filling operations have been going on with textbook precision. Scientists said it was all “very serious business” but they are enjoying it with enough lighter moments.

A scientist quipped if it was more than a coincidence that the Mars mission named Mangalyaan falls on a Mangalvaar (Tuesday, the day of Mars, called Mangala in Indian astronomy). “We know we have done a great job,” chipped in another, “but let’s not complain if there is a little divine intervention.” The launch was postponed from October 28 since one of the two radar-fitted ships that are to track the rocket from the South Pacific Ocean had not reached its destination due to bad weather.

Irrespective of the launch date changing by a few days, the orbiter is expected to reach Mars on September 24, since it would be in an Earth orbit till the wee hours of December 1. Till then, the orbiter will go in an elliptical orbit 250km at its nearest point to Earth and 23,500km at the farthest. Thereafter, the spacecraft will start a 300-odd day journey to Mars, through the phases of influence of Earth, Sun and, finally, Mars.

“We are all relaxed,” said Annadurai, who was the project director of Isro’s Chandrayaan-1 mission in 2008 that eventually found moisture on the polar region of moon. “In fact, I am moving out of Sriharikota now to Bangalore for the post-launch operations,” he told TOI on Monday evening.

Radhakrishnan had earlier said that getting the orbiter around Mars in itself would be a success. “There have been 51 launches by the US and Russia. Only 21 of them have been successful,” he said. India would be the sixth after the US, USSR/Russia, European Union, China and Japan to launch a Mars mission.

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India will attempt to become only the fourth country or group of countries to reach the Red Planet, after the Russia, United States and Europe. 23 out of 40 missions have failed, including missions by Japan in 1999 and China in 2011.

12 key facts about India’s Mars mission

1. This is the first time the national space agency is aspiring to send a mission to study a celestial body outside Earth’s sphere of influence.

2. India’s Mars Orbiter is expected to reach the red planet’s orbit by September 2014 and look for the presence of methane, an indicator of life there.

3. Isro has put in place an extensive network of stations worldwide to track the Mars Orbiter Mission after launch from the first launch pad here at 2.38pm.

4. Unlike other PSLV missions, PSLV C25 will take more than 40 minutes to inject the Mars Orbiter into Earth’s orbit as it has a long coasting phase (1,700 seconds) for the launch and has to achieve an “argument” of perigee of 276.4 degrees.

5. The vehicle trajectory will be tracked by monitoring stations at the Space Centre here, Indian Deep Station Network at Byalulu near Bangalore and Down Range Station at Port Blair in India and also from Biak in Indonesia and Brunei.

6. Two sea-borne terminals equipped with a 4.6 metre antenna and a 1.8 metre antenna on board Shipping Corporation of India’s SCI Nalanda and SCI Yamuna (some 2500 km between them) in South Pacific Ocean will track the vehicle as it injects the Mars Orbiter mission into Earth’s orbit.

7. Once injected into orbit by the launch vehicle, the spacecraft trajectory post separation would be tracked from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory facilities at Goldstone (U.S), Madrid (Spain) and Canberra (Australia).

8. The Mars Orbiter carries five scientific instruments to study the red planet – Lyman Alpha Photometer (LAP), Methane Sensor for Mars (MSM), Mars Exospheric Neutral Composition Analyser (MENCA), Mars Colour Camera (MCC) and Thermal Infrared Imaging Spectrometer (TIS).

9. While LAP and MSM would help in atmospheric studies,MENCA would focus on studying particle environment.MCC and TIS would contribute to studying the surface imaging of the red planet.

10. After having received 33 ideas for instruments to be flown to Mars, Isro shortlisted nine, of which the Advisory Committee of Space Sciences headed by Prof U R Rao finalised five instruments as only these were mature enough for the flight.

11. The 1,337 kg Mars Orbiter with 852 kg fuel and 15 kg of scientific instruments is expected to reach Mars’ orbit on September 14, 2014.

12. Though there have been 51 missions to the red planet by some countries, only 21 have been considered successful, according to NASA.

Source: The Times of India
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Video: India first ‘Mars Orbiter Mission’ blasts off

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Video: India’s maiden Mars mission to be launched today

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