India's Mars mission successful, history made

Bangalore, Sep 24: India today made history by successfully placing its spacecraft in orbit around Mars, becoming the first country in the world to succeed in such an inter-planetary mission in the maiden attempt itself.

At 7.17 AM, the 440 Newton Liquid Apogee Motor (LAM) sizzled with life as it burnt along with the thrusters to slow down the Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) spacecraft to be captured by the Red Planet.

"MOM has met Mangal," Prime Minister Narendra Modi said annnouncing the mission's success, after nerve-wracking final moments at the command centre of Indian Space Research Organisation here.

Modi, who witnessed the operation along with the space scientists, said the odds were stacked against "us with only 21 of the 51 missions to Mars being successful," but "we have prevailed."

It was a make or break tricky manoeuvre as even the slightest error would have pushed the orbiter into deep depths of space. Much of the spacecraft's manoeuvre took place behind Mars, as seen from Earth. This meant that from a point four minutes into the Mars Orbiter Insertion (MOI) burn until three minutes after the scheduled end of the manoeuvre, teams on Earth had no insight into the spacecraft's progress.

The orbiter will keep moving in an elliptical path at least for six months with its instruments sending their gleanings back home. The success in placing the spacecraft in the Martian orbit has made India the fourth space power after the United States, Europe and Russia to orbit or land on the Red Planet. The Rs 450-crore Mangalyaan aims to study Mars' surface and mineral composition, and scan its atmosphere for methane, a chemical strongly tied to life on Earth. The spacecraft was launched on November 5, 2013 on homegrown PSLV rocket from Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh on its nine-month long odyssey. It had escaped the earth gravity pull on December 1, 2013.

India's MOM is the cheapest inter-planetary mission. It India's MOM is the cheapest inter-planetary mission. It cost about a tenth of NASA's Mars mission Maven that entered the Martian orbit on September 22. The 1,350 kg spacecraft is equipped with five instruments including a sensor to track methane or marsh gas -- a possible sign of life, a colour camera and a thermal imaging spectrometer to map the surface and mineral wealth of the Red Planet. US' NASA and its MAVEN team have congratulated ISRO on its Mars arrival, the Indian space agency said.


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