India’s Mars mission to reach red planet in 30 days

launch of India's Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) on Nov. 5, 2013 from Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota

Just 30 days from now, India is tipped to find its place as a major global player in the field of space when the Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) better known as Mangalyaan enters the Red Planet. If all goes well, India will join an elite club of only four countries who have launched probes that successfully investigated Mars from orbit or the surface, following the Soviet Union, the United States and the European Space Agency (ESA).

India’s Mars orbiter mission (MOM) spacecraft also known as known as Mangalyaan is scheduled to be placed in Mar’s orbit on 24 September. India will be the first country to taste success on its maiden mission to the Red Planet if this attempt succeeds.

launch of India’s Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) on Nov. 5, 2013 from Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota

Five other countries – the US, Russia, Europe, Japan and China, have tried their luck with Mars but have not succeeded in the first attempt. Russia took 10 attempts, while the US managed success after 6, China and Japan are still trying. In fact, only 21 of the 51 missions to Mars have been successful.

MOM was designed and developed by the Indian Space Research Organization’s (ISRO) at a cost of $69 Million. The ambitious Mars mission project, was launched from Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh on board the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle on November 5 last year with an aim to reach Mars’s atmosphere by September 24.

MOM’s main objective is a demonstration of technological capabilities and it will also study the planet’s atmosphere and surface. The project is expected to provide the scientific community better opportunities in planetary research.

The spacecraft is now travelling at a speed of 22km/second. The challenge before ISRO would be to reduce this drastically to 1.6km/second, so that the rules of gravity around Mars are employable and the spacecraft is sucked into the desired orbit.

To achieve this, the space agency must fire its Mars Orbital Insertion (MOI) engine, which would have remained idle for 299 days by September 24. Not only will the engine have to be fired but it has to be done after changing the orientation completely.

ISRO space engineers are taking care to precisely navigate MOM to keep it on course during its long heliocentric trajectory from Earth to Mars through a series of in flight Trajectory Correction Maneuvers (TMSs).

So being an Indian let’s keep our finger crossed and hope that India taste success in its Mangalyaan project.

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