Mangalyaan completes 1,000 days in space
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.