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India's Mars Orbiter Mission: All you need to know

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Mars Orbiter Mission
With its maiden Mars Orbiter Mission (MoM), it seems India is all set to make history. After being launched from ISRO's spaceport of Sriharikota on November 5, 2013 the MOM had left Earth's orbit on December 1. and began its historic voyage to put India on the list of elite nations, which has sent a mission to Mars.

The MoM is scheduled for Orbit Insertion (entering the orbit of the Mars) on September 24.

What is Mars Orbiter Mission?

The Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), also known as Mangalyaan, is a Mars orbiter launched into Earth orbit on 5 November 2013 by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). It is expected to enter orbit around Mars on 24 September 2014. The mission is a "technology demonstrator" project aiming to develop the technologies required for design, planning, management, and operations of an interplanetary mission.

As per isro.org, "Mars Orbiter Mission is India's first interplanetary mission to planet Mars with an orbiter craft designed to orbit Mars in an elliptical orbit. The Mission is primarily technological mission considering the critical mission operations and stringent requirements on propulsion and other bus systems of spacecraft."

What are the objectives of this mission?

As per isro.org, one of the main objectives of the first Indian mission to Mars is to develop the technologies required for design, planning, management and operations of an interplanetary mission.

Following are the major objectives of the mission:

Technological Objectives:

Design and realisation of a Mars orbiter with a capability to survive and perform Earth bound manoeuvres, cruise phase of 300 days, Mars orbit insertion capture, and on-orbit phase around Mars.
Deep space communication, navigation, mission planning and management.
Incorporate autonomous features to handle contingency situations.

Scientific Objectives:

Exploration of Mars surface features, morphology, mineralogy and Martian atmosphere by indigenous scientific instruments.

Why is it the biggest test for the mission?

Today, ISRO faces one of the biggest tests for MoM. Today, the engine that has been lying dormant for 10 months will be switched on and fired for four seconds to slow down the spacecraft. The crucial fourth trajectory correction manoeuvre and test fire of the main liquid engine on the spacecraft is scheduled for 2.30 pm. Mangalyaan has successfully cleared this crucial test and thus, it's only two days to Mars now.

The failure and success of this test

As per a report in ET, "If it fires and performs well, ISRO will fire it for a longer duration two days later and ease the spacecraft into an orbit around Mars. If it fails to ignite on September 22, the space organisation will nudge the spacecraft's path towards a Martian orbit by firing eight smaller thrusters on September 24. Since these thrusters have less power (22Newton), they will have to be fired for a much longer duration, and yet the orbit achieved through this exercise would not be ideal to carry out studies of the red planet's atmosphere and morphology."

It further said, "In either case, barring completely unexpected situations, the Mars orbiter is expected to reach its destination within a week."

What are the experts saying?

"The difference between success and failure is very thin," Isro chairman K Radhakrishnan has said. "If the main engine fires, we will be able to get into a Martian orbit with a periapsis (closest point to Mars) of 423km and an apoapsis (farthest point) of 80,000km. Plan B will also help us get into an orbit, but at this point we don't know how close that would be."

As per reports, today (September 22, 2014), the MoM entered the Mars Gravitational Sphere of Influence. "MOM has entered the Mars Gravitational Sphere of Influence this morning and we will perform certain procedures on the mission today. The fourth trajectory correction manoeuvre and test firing of Main Liquid Engine will be test fired for 3.968 seconds," an ISRO official was quoted as saying in ET.

He further said, "Now that the spacecraft has entered the Mars' influence, its velocity has to be controlled so that it does not escape the Mars' influence. The spacecraft is scheduled to enter the Mars Orbit Insertion at 7.30 am IST on September 24."

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