Man­galyaan com­pletes 1,000 days in space

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On 19 June 2017, In­dia’s low-cost Mars Or­biter Mis­sion (MOM) space­craft, Man­galyaan com­pleted 1,000 Earth days in its or­bit around Mars – just as our Moon goes around the Earth, the planet on which we live – well be­yond its des­ig­nated mis­sion life of six months or 180 days.

One thou­sand Earth days cor­re­spond to 973.24 Mars So­lar days (The so­lar day on Mars is only slightly longer than an Earth day: 24 hours, 39 min­utes, and 35.244 sec­onds). In the process the MOM also com­pleted 388 or­bits around Mars.

The satel­lite is in good health and con­tin­ues to work as ex­pected. Sci­en­tific anal­y­sis of the data re­ceived from the space­craft is in progress.

The MOM lifted-off from the first launch pad at Satish Dhawan Space Cen­tre (Sri­harikota Range SHAR), Andhra Pradesh, us­ing In­dian Space Re­search Or­gan­i­sa­tion’s (ISRO) proven work­horse Po­lar Satel­lite Launch Ve­hi­cle (PSLV) rocket C25 at 14:38 IST on 5 Novem­ber 2013.

The MOM probe spent about a month in a geo­cen­tric, lowEarth or­bit, where it made a series of seven al­ti­tude-rais­ing or­bital ma­noeu­vres be­fore it started on its fi­nal voy­age to Mars.

There were a to­tal of four cor­rec­tional ma­noeu­vres of the tra­jec­tory dur­ing its jour­ney to Mars. The first ma­noeu­vre took place on 11 De­cem­ber 2013. The sec­ond and the third ma­noeu­vres were car­ried out in April 2014 and Au­gust 2014 re­spec­tively, and the fi­nal ori­en­ta­tion took place 10 days be­fore Mars or­bit in­ser­tion on 14 Septem­ber 2014. Af­ter a 298-day jour­ney to Mars, Man­galyaan was suc­cess­fully in­serted into Mars or­bit on 24 Septem­ber 2014.

It is In­dia's first in­ter­plan­e­tary mis­sion and ISRO is now the fourth space agency in the world to reach Mars, af­ter Rus­sia, USA, and the Euro­pean Space Agency. In­dia is also the first na­tion to reach Mars or­bit on its first at­tempt, and the first Asian na­tion to do so.

The space­craft is cur­rently be­ing mon­i­tored from the Space­craft Con­trol Cen­tre at ISRO Teleme­try, Track­ing and Com­mand Network (ISTRAC) in Ban­ga­lore with sup­port from

by G.V. Joshi It has still enough fuel to last many more years and keep send­ing more vi­tal in­for­ma­tion about the Red Planet, ac­cord­ing to ISRO.

In­dian Deep Space Network (IDSN) an­ten­nae at Byalalu near Ban­ga­lore.

Cit­ing sur­plus fuel as the rea­son, the ISRO had an­nounced in March 2015, that the space­craft's life was ex­tended by an­other six months. Later in June 2015, ISRO said that it has enough fuel to last for many years.

The MOM was launched to study the Mar­tian sur­face and min­eral com­po­si­tion, and scan its at­mos­phere for meth­ane, an in­di­ca­tor of life on Mars, also called the Red Planet, be­cause the iron ox­ide preva­lent on its sur­face gives it a red­dish ap­pear­ance in the sky at night.

The space­craft has five sci­en­tific in­stru­ments - 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).

Black­out for so­lar con­junc­tion

The MCC, one of the sci­en­tific pay­loads on­board MOM, has pro­duced more than 715 im­ages so far.

Dur­ing the mis­sion, the space­craft has gone through a com­mu­ni­ca­tion 'black­out' as a re­sult of so­lar con­junc­tion from 2 June 2015 to 2 July 2015.

A so­lar con­junc­tion oc­curs when a planet or other so­lar sys­tem ob­ject is on the op­po­site side of the Sun from the Earth. As seen from Earth, the Sun will pass be­tween the Earth and the ob­ject (in this case MOM). Com­mu­ni­ca­tion with any space­craft in so­lar con­junc­tion will be se­verely lim­ited due to the Sun's in­ter­fer­ence on ra­dio trans­mis­sions from the space­craft.

It ex­pe­ri­enced the 'white out' ge­om­e­try (when the Earth was be­tween the Sun and the Mars) dur­ing 18 May to 30 May 2016.

An or­bital ma­noeu­vre was also per­formed on the MOM space­craft to avoid the im­pend­ing long eclipse du­ra­tion for the satel­lite.

The ISRO has also launched pro­grammes for re­searchers in the coun­try to use MOM data for re­search and devel­op­ment.

Why was Mars se­lected? Of all the plan­ets in the so­lar sys­tem, Mars has evoked the great­est hu­man interest in the past. Its or­bit lies be­tween the as­ter­oid belt and the Earth. For ages, hu­mans have been spec­u­lat­ing about life on Mars. The con­di­tions on Mars are be­lieved to be hos­pitable to hu­mans dwelling on Earth, since the planet is sim­i­lar to Earth in many ways.

Like Earth, it has an at­mos­phere (though less dense and dif­fer­ent in com­po­si­tion), wa­ter, ice and ge­ol­ogy which in­ter­act with each other to pro­duce the dy­namic Mar­tian en­vi­ron­ment. Mars has sur­face fea­tures rem­i­nis­cent of the im­pact craters of the Moon as well as vol­ca­noes, deserts and po­lar ice on the Earth.

But, the ques­tion that is yet to be an­swered is whether Mars has a bio­sphere or ever had an en­vi­ron­ment in which life as we know could have evolved and sus­tained.

Mars with its many sim­i­lar­i­ties to Earth is an im­por­tant planet to un­der­stand the ori­gin and evo­lu­tion of the so­lar sys­tem, and in the not-so-dis­tant fu­ture, Mars will be the most prob­a­ble can­di­date for hu­man ex­plo­ration by Amer­ica.

The car­bon diox­ide-rich at­mos­phere, ab­sence of liq­uid wa­ter on the sur­face and ab­sence of a pro­tec­tive global mag­netic field are not per­ceived as de­ter­rents for hu­man set­tle­ment on Mars in a few decades from now.

In­dia cer­tainly can­not af­ford to lag be­hind in its in­de­pen­dent ex­plo­ration of the red planet. With this in view, the In­dian Mars Or­biter Mis­sion pro­ject was un­der­taken pri­mar­ily to demon­strate the prow­ess to ven­ture into in­ter­plan­e­tary space.

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