September 24, 2014, 8.02 am: Mars mission successful
This was the moment a lot of people were waiting for. After a 319-day journey, India’s maiden mission to Mars successfully entered the planet’s orbit to commence its six-month study of the planet. The Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) spacecraft, named Mangalyaan, or ‘Mars craft’ in Hindi, was launched by Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) on November 5 last year aboard a PSLV-C25 rocket.
The mission to Mars had been in the limelight right from the start for various reasons, recounted above. Also, it was a big test for India’s huge scientific manpower, which is famed all around the world. Indian scientists have been working in the top institutions all over the world for a long time. Now it was time for some home-made success. Of course, the successful Chandrayaan-1 mission a few years earlier had give scientists a huge boost in confidence.
(L) Nov 5 launch (R) Scientists at the Bangalore control centre clapping as MOM entered orbit Source: DD
Congratulatory tweets from space agencies
With the success of this mission, ISRO has achieved a few firsts.
- This is the first time a mission to Mars has been successful in its very first attempt.
- India is the first Asian country to succeed in a Mars mission. The first Chinese mission to Mars, called Yinghuo-1, failed in 2011. Earlier in 1998, the Japanese mission ran out of fuel and was lost.
- Before this, only three other space agencies – NASA (USA), RFAS (of Russia and the erstwhile Soviet Union), ESA (of European Union) – have managed to send spacecraft which successfully landed on or orbited the planet, comprising a mere 18 of the 40 missions. The 41st, that is, MOM of course has been successful.
- The cost of MOM, at approximately $74 million, or Rs 450 crore, is the cheapest ever for a Mars mission. It is just 11% of the cost of NASA’s MAVEN mission, achieved using mostly indigenous technology.
- The cost of the mission is less than the estimated $100 million budget of the sci-fi blockbuster, Gravity.
- It is also all credit to the brilliance and ingenuity of Indian scientists that the preparation for the mission was akin to a 100 m-sprint – a 15-month roller-coaster for over 500 engineers and scientists, when most global missions have taken more than a decade to execute.
- The Methane Sensor for Mars (MSM) aboard Mangalyaan is the first dedicated methane gas sensor to Mars. Methane is a chemical strongly tied to life on Earth. The presence of methane gas, also called marsh gas, on Earth is one of the surest signs of the presence of carbon-based life forms. So in a way, without even landing on Mars, India hopes to provide an answer to that million-dollar question – '[Are we alone in this universe?'
Another name for Mars is the Red Planet, because when one sees the
planet when it is bright and close to Earth, it appears like a bright
red star. In Roman mythology, Mars was the god of war.
About Mars Orbiter Mission
- The Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) is ISRO’s first interplanetary mission; the last mission launched by ISRO to examine a celestial body was the Chandrayaan-I satellite launched on October 22, 2010 towards the Moon.
- India’s nodal space agency ISRO built the spacecraft.
- With this mission, India became the first Asian country to succeed in interplanetary exploration.
- The first 20-25 days were spent in the Earth's orbit to build up velocity to break free from the Earth’s gravitational pull.
- The spacecraft weighs 1337 kg, about the size of a small car or very large refrigerator.
- The six-month mission will study the atmosphere of Mars and search for methane gas while asking that eternal question that has dogged humanity: ‘Are we alone in the universe?’
- The MOM carries a payload of five instruments –
Lyman Alpha Photometer (LAP), to measure the relative abundance of deuterium and hydrogen in Mars’
upper atmosphere, in order to understand the process of loss of water from the planet.
Methane Sensor for Mars (MSM), to measure methane in the Martian atmosphere, which undergoes spatial
and temporal variations.
Mars Exospheric Neutral Composition Analyser (MENCA), to study the neutral composition of the upper
Mars Colour Camera (MCC), to give images and information about the surface features and composition, to
monitor the dynamic events and weather of Mars, and to probe the two satellites of Mars, Phobos and
Deimos. Thermal Infrared Imaging Spectrometer (TIS), to measure thermal emission, in order to map surface
composition and mineralogy of Mars, as many minerals and soil types have characteristic spectra in the
thermal infrared region.
Flight path of Mars Orbiter Mission Source: NextBigWhat
AIMS OF THE MARS ORBITER MISSION
~ To study the atmosphere of Mars
~ To explore things which have not been done by other countries
~ To develop several critical technologies needed for future explorations
~ To concentrate on climate and geology, which are going to be crucial for future explorations of the planet
~ To study the effect of solar wind on Mars' atmosphere and its surface magnetic field
To join the international effort of assessing the suitability of Mars
to life by searching for sub-surface ground water trapped in aquifers
for thousands of years.
One of the instruments carried board Mangalyaan Source: www.phys.org
A comparative study of Mars and Earth
Some facts about Mars in literature
- In 1898, HG Wells brought Mars into popular culture with his novel, The War of the Worlds. It revolved around the idea of Martians invading the Earth and spawned the genre of ‘alien invasion’ fiction.
- In 1938, Orson Welles' radio adaptation of The War of the Worlds, on the eve of Halloween, was so realistic that Americans flooded the streets in panic.
- In Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels (1726), astronomers on the fictional island of Laputa are said to have discovered two satellites around Mars. The book was written a century before an astronomer discovered the Martian satellites.
- The Martian Chronicles (1950), written by Ray Bradbury, was a mosaic of two worlds running out of time. It was turned into a television mini-series in USA in the 1980s.
- ‘Byomjatrir Diary’, the first story in the Professor Shonku series by Satyajit Ray, published in Sandesh magazine in 1961, had the scientist and explorer, Professor Trilokeshwar Shonku, voyaging to Mars and attacked by Martians.
- In the story ‘Mongol Grohe Ghanada’, part of the Ghanada series by Premendra Mitra, Ghanada travelled to Mars.
- In 2005, The War of the Worlds was adapted as a film, starring Tom Cruise, under Steven Spielberg's direction.