India’s mission to Mars is on the right course to make history, as scientists from the country’s space agency Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) successfully tested the main engine of its Mars mission spacecraft, Mangalyaan and also completed a course correction. The probe has entered Mar’s gravitational sphere and is now expected to enter the Martian orbit by September 24.
“Our navigators’ calculations show that the Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) has entered the gravitational sphere of the influence of Mars,” tweeted ISRO on September 22.
The vital course correction has ensured that the main liquid engine, which was static for 300 days, is ready to be used along with eight small thrusters during orbit entry by the spacecraft.
“We had a perfect burn for four seconds as programmed. The trajectory has been corrected. MOM (Mars Orbiter Mission) will now go for the nominal plan for Mars Orbit Insertion,” said the IRSO’s Facebook page.
If the MoM successfully enters Mar’s orbit, India will be the first country to do so in its maiden interplanetary venture in the outer space.
Mangalyaan’s 680 million kilometre journey to Mars began on November 5 2013.
While the US, Russia and Europe have sent probes that orbited or landed on the planet none have done it within the budgetary constraints that the ISRO did experience.
At $78 million India’s Mars mission cost just sixth of NASA’s Mars mission Maven – its 10th mission to Mars. Maven entered Mar’s orbit on September 22.
This effort by ISRO itself has created nationwide excitement, particularly among the fraternity of space scientists. A successful mission will be a shot in the arm to India’s reputation as a world leader in space exploration. Over half of the missions to the red planet have been unsuccessful, either crashing or going off course. In 2011, China’s Mars mission failed to leave the earth orbit.
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to witness the Mangalyaan’s entry into Martian orbit at ISRO’s Command Centre in Bengaluru. The last phase is expected to commence at 7.30 a.m on September 24.
The Mangalyaan is equipped with cameras, atmosphere sensors and surface chemistry equipment and aims to study the surface of the Mars including mineral composition. It will also search Mar’s atmosphere for methane or Marsh gas to ascertain whether it can or had sustained life, as believed by many astro-scientists in the past.
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