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India sends Mars Mission into space, a symbolic coup over China, Japan

Nov 06, 2013 at 02:56pm IST

Sriharikota: India's journey to Mars has begun with the successful launch of the Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM). Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) joined an elite club of just four agencies in the world which dared to travel to Mars. The Rs 450 crore Mars Orbiter Mission was successfully launched from Dr Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) in Sriharikota, a small coastal village in Andhra Pradesh on Tuesday at 2:38 pm.

Two ships Nalanda and Yamuna stationed by the ISRO in the South Pacific Seas sighted the Mars Orbiter separating from the launch vehicle; it has been tracked by deep space satellites and transmitted back to international reception centres across the globe. The ejection of the satellite over the South Pacific was flawless.

A team of ISRO's top scientists monitored the separation of Mars Orbiter from the launch vehicle from their control room in the two ships. The ship-borne communication vessels Nalanda and Yamuna had been delayed by choppy weather in the South Pacific seas. Leased from the Shipping Corporation of India, the ships left in September for the mission.

PSLV-C25 with the Mars Mission will travel for almost 300 days, cover 680 million kilometres and reach Mars on September 24, 2014. The movement of the mission is being closely monitored by the ISRO's main navigation centre at Byalalu, in the outskirts of Bangalore. Other stations in Port Blair and Brunei are also monitoring it.

The tense looking ISRO team led by it's Chairman Dr K Radhakrishnan, which was closely monitoring the path of the mission, heaved a sigh of relief after it successfully ejected from the launch vehicle over the Pacific Ocean.

An elated Radhakrishnan said, "It is a historic day. We have realised it." He later invited all top members of the team to speak and share their joy.

The launch authorisation committee chairman MYS Prasad said, "It is an excellent mission. It is a very complex mission. I congratulate all for successfully achieving it."

ISRO stations across the globe will monitor every detail of the different stages of the flight. The earth-bound manoeuvres until November 30; and later the heliocentric phase of going half-way around Sun; and from then on until it reaches Mars after 300 days.

On November 30, it will travel straight to the Mars. It is a very critical stage. In the third and the final stage, it will enter the Mars orbit.

If it successfully enters the Mars orbit, it will collect very useful information and transmit back to the Earth. India can proudly say that it has finally reached the Mars. India will be ahead of China and Japan, which failed in their attempt to conquer the red planet.

As a CNN analyst in Hong Kong says "a successful mission by India's Mars orbiter would make the country the first Asian nation to reach the Red Planet. And provide a symbolic coup as neighboring China steps up its ambitions in space".

India's journey to the Mars has generated a huge curiosity all over the world. International channels like BBC and CNN covered it live and it's the lead story in most of the top newspapers and websites in the world. Even on micro blogging site twitter, it was the top five trending topics on Tuesday.

BJP's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi was the first to congratulate the ISRO for the successful launch of the Mars Mission. He called the mission "a great moment in the history of India".

President Pranab Mukherjee, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress President Sonia Gandhi also congratulated ISRO for the mission.

Former ISRO chairman Dr Madhavan Nair, who had earlier expressed his reservations over the Mars Mission, said, "First travelling to this large distance itself is a challenge. We have to watch till the next September for it to reach the Mars."

The lift off mass of the spacecraft was 1,350 kg while the dry mass was 500 kg. The power system consists of olar array with three panels wand it also has a bi-propellant system for Mars orbit insertion.

The 44.4 metre tall rocket was mounted on the pedestal of the First Launch Pad at the spaceport, covered by a 76 metre tall Mobile Service Tower, designed to withstand a wind speed of 230 km per hour, in case of a cyclone. The rocket took over 40 minutes to inject the satellite on Earth's orbit after take off.

The satellite is expected to go around Earth for 20-25 days before embarking on a nine-month voyage to the red planet on December 1 and reach the orbit of Mars on September 24, 2014.

The mission carries on board five instruments to conduct experiments. Two instruments on the Orbiter will take 360 degree pictures of the Martian surface and look for minerals. One instrument will study the Mars atmosphere, another will map just how much water, if any, is present. The fifth instrument will check for the presence of methane which could indicate if life ever existed on Mars. ISRO is also hoping to make discoveries that previous Mars missions may have missed.

ISRO has taken just 18 months in building its rocket, its space craft, instruments and readying its tracking system at Byalalu near Bangalore.

Mission Objectives:

One of the main objectives of the mission to Mars is to develop the technologies required for design, planning, management and operations of an interplanetary mission.

Technological Objectives:

Design and realisation of a Mars orbiter with a capability to survive and perform Earth bound manoeuvres, cruise phase of 300 days, Mars orbit insertion/ capture, and on-orbit phase around Mars.

Deep space communication, navigation, mission planning and management.

Incorporate autonomous features to handle contingency situations.

Scientific Objectives:

Exploration of Mars surface features, morphology, mineralogy and Martian atmosphere by indigenous scientific instruments.

Mars Orbiter Mission carries five payloads:

For atmpospheric studies:

Layman Alpha Photometer (LAP): It is an absorption cell photometer. It measures the relative abundance of deuterium and hydrogen from Lyman-alpha emission in the Martian upper atmosphere (typically Exosphere and exobase). Measurement of D/H (Deuterium to Hydrogen abundance ratio) allows us to understand especially the loss process of water from the planet.

Methan Sensors for Mars (MSM): It is designed to measure methane (CH4) in the Martian atmosphere with PPB accuracy and map its source. Data is acquired only over illuminated scene as the sensor measures the reflected solar radiation. Methane concentration in the Martian atmosphere undergoes spatial and temporal variations.

For particle environment studies:

Mars Exospheric Neutral Composition Analyser (MENCA): It is a quadruple mass spectrometer capable of analysing the neutral composition in the range of 1 to 300 amu with unit mass resolution. The heritage of this payload is from Chandra's Altitudinal Composition Explorer (CHACE) payload.

For surface imaging studies:

Mars Colour Camera (MCC): This tri-colour camera gives images and information about the surface mission and composition of Martian surface. They are useful to monitor the dynamic event and weather of Mars. MCC will also be used for probing the two satellites of Mars - Phobos and Deimos. It also provides the context information for other science payloads.

Thermal Infrared Imaging Spectrometer (TIS): This will measure the thermal emission and can be be operated during both day and night. Temperature and emissivity are the two basic physical parameters estimated from thermal emission measurement. Many minerals and soil types have characteristic spectra in TIR region. TIC can map surface composition and mineralogy of Mars.


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