India Takes First Step to Mars

Launch of India's Mars Orbiter Mission Credit : ISRO

Launch of India’s Mars Orbiter Mission
Credit : ISRO

Rising space power India has successfully launched its MOM, Mars Orbiter Mission on the first leg of an 11 month journey intended to place the 1350 kg spacecraft into orbit around the Red Planet on September 24, 2014.

The Mars orbiter was launched into a preliminary parking orbit aboard the highly successful PSLV, Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, a four stage booster consisting of alternating solid and liquid stages, which has now completed its 24rd consecutive successful launch after a single failure on its maiden flight in 1993.

The mission profile calls for a series of six burns to gradually raise the spacecraft’s apogee until it finally breaks free of Earth’s gravitational field on December 1st for a minimum energy cruise towards the Red Planet. Successfully arriving at Mars next year, the spacecraft will perform another  burn to place it in a long, looping orbit with a closest approach, or Peri-apsis, of 366 km and high point or Apo-apsis  of 80,000 km.

The MOM is equipped with 5 instruments, including a color camera, thermal imaging spectrometer, methane sensor, and two instruments to study the planet’s upper atmosphere.  If the spacecraft successfully evades the gremlins which have bedeviled almost all non-U.S. Mars missions, and a good portion of those as well,  it will mark a significant triumph for the Indian Space Program, and perhaps a change in perception that Mars is so difficult only the U.S. can reliably achieve it.  If it does not, the reality may linger. NASA’s next Mars mission, the MAVEN orbiter, is scheduled to launch from Cape Canaveral on similarly timed voyage to the Red Planet  on November 18th.

For India, there is good reason to be optimistic. The MOM is based on India’s highly successful 2008 Chandrayaan-1  Lunar Orbiter, which has played a key role in identifying the presence of water molecules in belt extending from the Lunar poles to a latitude of 60 degrees.

One element of potential concern for the Mars Orbiter Mission,  India lost contact with the Chandrayaan-1 in August 2009, after less than a year of operations.  Hopefully  the new spacecraft will stay on the line just a little longer.

Posted in: India Space, Mars

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4 Comments on "India Takes First Step to Mars"

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  1. Gary Warburton says:

    Some people see Developing nation`s efforts to develop space capabilities as an affront to its poor but really it isn`t. As developing nation they have to remain relevant to the rest of the world ie. they have to have something to sell to the rest of the world or they will simply fall deeper into poverty. India has seenit its economyprogress in the last few years year
    has has .

  2. Gary Warburton says:

    Stewart – The box for writing in is very shallow and doesn`t allow you to see more than three lines at a time and after four lines it doesn`t move down anymore so you are writting blind.

  3. Gary Warburton says:

    To continue- I mispelled writing but to continue after India- has seen its economy improve in the last little while as it has begun to catch up to the technology in the rest of the world. So people should not judge them
    harshly for their space program. They`re getting there.

  4. Agreed. The success rate on the PSLV is outstanding, and if the MOM actually succeeds, India will have a Mars success story the entire nation can be proud of, and one Russia can only envy.

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