India Celebrates a MOM Safe at Mars

Two days after NASA hailed the arrival of its MAVEN spacecraft at the Red Planet, rising space power India is now celebrating the successful orbital insertion of its own; MOM, or Mars Orbital Mission.

From the Indian space Research Organization Press Release:

“India’s Mars Orbiter Spacecraft successfully entered into an orbit around planet Mars today morning (September 24, 2014) by firing its 440 Newton Liquid Apogee Motor (LAM) along with eight smaller liquid engines. This Liquid Engines firing operation which began at 07:17:32 Hrs IST lasted for 1388.67 seconds which changed the velocity of the spacecraft by 1099 metre/sec. With this operation, the spacecraft entered into an elliptical orbit around Mars. Honourable Prime Minister of India, Mr Narendra Modi, was present at ISRO’s Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network (ISTRAC) in Bangalore to witness this important event.”

“The events related to Mars Orbit Insertion progressed satisfactorily and the spacecraft performance was normal. The Spacecraft is now circling Mars in an orbit whose nearest point to Mars (periapsis) is at 421.7 km and farthest point (apoapsis) at 76,993.6 km. The inclination of orbit with respect to the equatorial plane of Mars is 150 degree, as intended. In this orbit, the spacecraft takes 72 hours 51 minutes 51 seconds to go round the Mars once.

Mars Orbiter Spacecraft was launched on-board India’s workhorse launch vehicle PSLV on November 05, 2013 into a parking orbit around the Earth. On December 01, 2013, following Trans Mars Injection (TMI) manoeuvre, the spacecraft escaped from orbiting the earth and followed a path that would allow it to encounter Mars on September 24, 2014.

With today’s successful Mars Orbit Insertion operation, ISRO has become the fourth space agency to successfully send a spacecraft to Mars orbit. In the coming weeks, the spacecraft will be thoroughly tested in the Mars orbit and the systematic observation of that planet using its five scientific instruments would begin.”

Smaller than MAVEN, but certainly no less significant, particularly to the nation which launched it, MOM is primarily a technology demonstration spacecraft, but it is equipped with a suite of five science instruments, including a methane gas detector. In a symbol of how important the mission is to India, the nation’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi was on hand at the Bangalore tracking center to witness the Orbital Insertion, sporting a symbolic red vest.

Modi, as well as the Indian press has focused attention on the enormous cost differential between MOM at $72 million, and MAVEN at $670 million, while pointing out that India’s first mission to Mars cost less than making the movie “Gravity.” Although there is also an enormous differential in capability,  Modi’s comparison makes an interesting point and unintentionally raises an intriguing question. How long will it be before NewSpace is celebrating the arrival of its own first mission to the same planet which is the focus of so much of its long term ambitions?

MOM joins five other spacecraft actively working at Mars, four in orbit including, MAVEN, Mars Odyssey and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and ESA’s Mars Express, as well the two U.S. rovers, Opportunity and Curiosity on the planet’s surface.



Posted in: India Space, Mars

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