Mission Mangal: A look back at Mars Orbiter craft's laurels as it reaches end of life

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) confirmed Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) or Mangalyaan has ‘attained its end of life’. Launched on 5 November 2013, Mangalyaan was India’s first interplanetary mission. Built for a six-month mission, it lasted for eight years

FP Explainers October 04, 2022 14:21:06 IST
Mission Mangal: A look back at Mars Orbiter craft's laurels as it reaches end of life

India’s Mangalyaan satellite has said goodbye after spending eight years in the Martian orbit. Image Courtesy: AFP and ISRO

India’s Mangalyaan mission has said goodbye after spending eight years in the Martian orbit. The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) confirmed on Monday that communication was lost with the Mars Orbiter craft and it is “non-recoverable”.

As per ISRO sources, the spacecraft ran out of propellant and its battery was drained beyond the safe limit, reports PTI.

Giving an update on Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) or Mangalyaan, ISRO said in a statement, “It was declared that the spacecraft is non-recoverable, and attained its end-of-life. The mission will be ever-regarded as a remarkable technological and scientific feat in the history of planetary exploration.”

MOM– India’s first interplanetary mission– which was supposed to last six months, completed eight years in the orbit of Mars last week.

As the historic space endeavour comes to an end, let’s take a look back at its past and all it has achieved.

Cheaper than ‘Gravity’ movie

Mangalyaan, the indigenously made unmanned robotic mission, was launched onboard PSLV-C25 on 5 November 2013 from the rocket port at Sriharikota.

Weighing 1,350 kg, MOM entered the orbit of Mars on 24 September 2014, after covering over 670 million kilometres in 300 days.

The then ISRO chairman K Radhakrishna had told BBC about MOM that it was “the cheapest inter-planetary mission ever to be undertaken by the world”.

Mission Mangal A look back at Mars Orbiter crafts laurels as it reaches end of life

Mangalyaan– the indigenously made unmanned robotic mission weighed 1,350 kg. Graphic: Pranay Bhardwaj

Praising the cost-effectiveness of the mission, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in Sriharikota in 2014, “The (making of the) Hollywood movie Gravity cost more than our Mars mission – this is a great achievement.”

The budget of Sandra Bullock-starrer Gravity reportedly was $100 million.

National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Maven Orbiter cost $582.5 million, 10 times more than Mangalyaan.

Commenting on how India has managed to keep the costs under control for the mission, Britain’s Professor Andrew Coates, who became the principal investigator on Europe’s Mars rover in 2018, told BBC, “They’ve kept it small. The payload weighs only about 15 kg. Compare that with the complexity in the payload in Maven and that will explain a lot about the cost.”

The payload carried by MOM included Mars Color Camera (MCC), Thermal Infrared Imaging Spectrometer (TIS), Methane Sensor for Mars (MSM), Mars Exospheric Neutral Composition Analyser (MENCA) and Lyman Alpha Photometer (LAP).

The Mars orbiter was also equipped with an instrument to measure methane in the atmosphere of the Red Planet.

Milestones of Mangalyaan

With Mangalyaan, India became the first Asian nation to successfully reach Mars’ orbit and the first country in the world to do so in its maiden attempt.

Recognising the feat achieved by Mangalyaan, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson called the mission ‘Pride of Asia’ after the spacecraft reached Mars’ orbit in 2014.

ISRO became the fourth space agency in the world to reach the orbit of Mars, after Roscosmos, NASA, and the European Space Agency.

Highlighting the achievements of India’s Mars Orbiter Mission, ISRO said in its statement, “Equipped with a five scientific payloads onboard, during these eight years, the mission has gifted significant scientific understanding on the Martian surface features, morphology, as well as the Martian atmosphere and exosphere.”

In 2015, the programme team of Mangalyaan won the Space Pioneer Award in the science and engineering category awarded by the US-based National Space Society (NSS).

“MOM is credited with many laurels like cost-effectiveness, short period of realisation, economical mass-budget, and miniaturisation of five heterogeneous science payloads”, ISRO officials told PTI.

The Mars Colour Camera has produced more than 1000 images that helped the space agency to compile Martian Atlas.

The MCC clicked pictures of Phobos and Deimos, the two moons of Mars, from close distances.

Mangalyaan’s highly elliptical orbit geometry facilitated the MCC to capture images of the ‘full disc’ of Mars at its farthest point and finer details from the closest point.

Mission Mangal A look back at Mars Orbiter crafts laurels as it reaches end of life

Mangalyaan’s highly elliptical orbit geometry enabled the Mars Colour Camera to capture images of the ‘full disc’ of the Red Planet. Image Courtesy: ISRO

“The MOM is the only Martian artificial satellite that could image the full disc of Mars in one view frame and also image the far side of Deimos,” the ISRO was quoted as saying by PTI.

In March this year, scientists used the Mars Orbiter craft to study the solar corona when the Earth and Mars were on opposite sides of the Sun.

An important conclusion that Mangalyaan shed light on was that dust storms on the Martian can rise up to hundreds of kilometres, former ISRO chairman A S Kiran Kumar told PTI in 2019.

What about Mangalyaan-2?

The Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM-2) or Mangalyaan-2 is still in the early phases and not yet on ISRO’s approved list, PTI reported.

“It’s still on the drawing board. But needs some more details and international collaboration for finalising the mission,” a senior ISRO official told PTI.

India’s space agency’s current priorities are ‘Gaganyaan’, ‘Chandrayaan-3’ and ‘Aditya – L1’ projects, officials added.

With inputs from agencies

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