October 28, 2020: The Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), also named Mangalyaan, is a space probe orbiting Mars. The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) launched it on November 5, 2013.
This is India’s first interplanetary mission and, after Roscosmos, NASA, and the European Space Agency. India’s Mars mission has been the fourth space agency to hit Mars. It made India, on its maiden attempt, the first Asian nation to enter Martian orbit and the first nation in the world to do so.
The Mars Orbiter Mission probe lifted-off from the First Launch Pad at Satish Dhawan Space Centre (Sriharikota Range SHAR), Andhra Pradesh, using a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) rocket C25 at 09:08 UTC on November 5, 2013.
The launch window was roughly 20 days long and began on October 28, 2013.
The MOM probe spent about a month in Earth orbit, conducting a sequence of seven apogee-raising orbital manoeuvres prior to the November 30, 2013 (UTC) trans-Mars injection. It was placed into the Mars orbit on September 24, 2014 after a 298-day transit to Mars.
India’s Mars mission is a “technology demonstrator” project to improve the technologies for an interplanetary mission’s design, planning, management, and operations.
It involves five scientific instruments. The spacecraft is currently being controlled with the assistance of the Indian Deep Space Network (IDSN) antenna in Bengaluru, Karnataka, from the Spacecraft Control Centre at the Isro Telemetry, Monitoring and Command Network (ISTRAC) in Bengaluru.
Team of scientists involved in India’s Mars Mission
Some of the scientists and engineers involved in the mission include-
- K. Radhakrishnan led the mission as the Chairman of Isro.
- Mylswamy Annadurai: Programme Director and in charge of budget management as well as direction for spacecraft configuration, schedule and resources.
- S Ramakrishnan: Director who helped in developing the liquid propulsion system of the PSLV launcher.
- P. Kunhikrishnan: Project Director in the PSLV programme. He was also a Mission director of PSLV-C25/Mars Orbiter Mission.
- Moumita Dutta: Project manager of the Mars Orbiter Mission.
- Nandini Harinath: Deputy Operations Director of Navigation.
- Ritu Karidhal: Deputy Operations Director of Navigation.
- BS Kiran: Associate Project Director of Flight Dynamics.
- V. Kesava Raju: Mars Orbiter Mission Director.
- V Koteswara Rao: Isro scientific secretary.
- Chandradathan: Director of the Liquid Propulsion System.
- A.S. Kiran Kumar: was the Director of the Satellite Application Centre.
- M.Y.S. Prasad: Director at Satish Dhawan Space Centre. He was also the Chairman at Launch Authorisation Board.
- SK Shivakumar: Director at the Isro Satellite Centre. He was also a Project Director for the Deep Space Network.
- Subbiah Arunan: Project Director at Mars Orbiter Mission.
- B. Jayakumar: Associate Project Director at the PSLV program who was responsible for testing the rocket systems.
- M.S. Pannirselvam: Chief General Manager at the Sriharikota Rocket port and was tasked to maintain launch schedules
Cost for India’s Mars Mission
The overall cost of the India’s mars mission was around Rs 450 crore (US$ 73 million), making it the Mars mission to date the least costly. Isro chairman K. Radhakrishnan attributed the low cost of the mission to him.
To various variables, which included a “modular approach”, few ground tests and long (18-20 hour) working days for scientists, including Radhakrishnan.
Jonathan Amos of the BBC listed lower worker costs, home-grown technology, simpler architecture, and a substantially less complicated payload than MAVEN of NASA.
Objectives of India’s Mars Mission
- The primary objective of the project is to establish the technologies needed for the interplanetary project’s design, preparation, management and operations. The secondary aim is to use indigenous scientific instruments to study Mars’ surface features, morphology, mineralogy and Martian atmosphere.
- The key goals are to develop the necessary technologies for the design, preparation, management and execution of an interplanetary mission, with the following main tasks:
- Orbit manoeuvres to move the spacecraft to the heliocentric trajectory from Earth-centered orbit and eventually catch it into Martian orbit.
- Creation of force models and algorithms for computations for orbit and attitude (orientation) and analysis
- Navigation in all stages
- Maintain the spacecraft in all mission phases
- Meeting requirements of fuel, communications, thermal and payload operation
- Incorporate independent characteristics to cope with contingency situations
Scientific objectives of India’s Mars Mission
The following major issues are discussed in the scientific objectives:
- By observing morphology, topography and mineralogy, exploration of Mars surface characteristics
- Using remote sensing techniques to study Martian atmosphere elements, including methane and CO2
- Research the dynamics of Mars’ upper atmosphere, the effects of solar wind and radiation and chaotic escape to outer space
- The project will also provide many chances for the Martian moon Phobos to be observed and also provide an opportunity to classify and re-estimate the asteroid orbits seen during the Martian Transition Trajectory.
The Spacecraft specifications
Launch Vehicle: PSLV
Spacecraft Mass: 1,075 pounds (488kg)
- Mars Color Camera
- Lyman Alpha Photometer
- Thermal Imaging Spectrometer
- Mars Exospheric Neutral Composition Analyzer
- Methane Sensor for Mars
- November 5, 2013, 09:08 UTC- Launch
- November 6, 2013, 19:47 UTC- November 15, 2013, 19:57 UTC- Orbit raising manoeuvre
- November 30, 2013, 19:19 UTC- Trans-Mars injection
- December 2013 – September 2014- Heliocentric phase
- September 24, 2014- Areocentric phase (Mars orbit insertion)
Status of India’s Mars Mission
As expected, with a period of 72 hours 51 minutes 51 seconds, a periapsis of 421.7 km (262.0 mi) and an apoapsis of 76,993.6 km (47,841.6 mi) around Mars, the orbit insertion put MOM in a highly elliptical orbit around Mars.
At the end of the orbit insertion, MOM was left with 40kg (88 lb) of fuel on board, more than the 20 kg (44 lb) required for a six-month flight.
The image was captured by the Mars Colour Camera (MCC).
On October 7, 2014, the Isro altered the orbit of MOM to shift it behind Mars on 19 October 2014 for Comet Siding Spring’s flyby of the earth. The spacecraft consumed 1.9 kg (4 lb) of fuel for the manoeuvre. As a result, MOM’s apoapsis was reduced to 72,000 km (45,000 mi). ISRO announced that MOM remained healed after the comet flew through Mars.
MOM ended its initial six-month mission in orbit around Mars on March 24, 2015.
Isro had extended the mission by an additional six months; the spacecraft is left with 37kg (82 lb) of propellant and all five of its scientific instruments are operating properly. The orbiter is reported to be able to continue circling Mars with its remaining propellant for several years.
From June 6 to 22, 2015, a 17-day communications blackout occurred as Mars’ orbit took it from Earth’s view behind the Sun.
Isro issued its ‘Mars Atlas’ on September 24, 2015, a 120-page scientific atlas featuring images and data from the Mars Orbiter Mission’s first year in orbit.
The first science findings of the mission were published in Geophysical Research Letters in March 2016, presenting measurements obtained by the Martian Exosphere MENCA instrument of the spacecraft.
A contact whiteout occurred with Earth coming directly between the Sun and Mars between May 18 and 30, 2016.
Sending commands to spacecraft was avoided due to high solar radiation, and payload operations were halted. MOM’s orbit was altered on January 17, 2017 to avoid the imminent eclipse season.
Eclipses were avoided until September 2017 with a burn of eight 22 N thrusters for 431 seconds, resulting in a velocity difference of 97.5 metres per second (351 km / h) using 20 kilograms (44 lb) of propellant (leaving 13 kg remaining).
The battery is capable of managing eclipses of up to 100 minutes. In orbit around Mars, MOM crossed 1,000 days (973 sols) on May 19, 2017. At that time, 388 orbits of the globe were completed by the spacecraft and over 715 images were relayed back to Earth. ISRO officials confirmed that it remains in good health.
MOM completed 4 years in its orbit around Mars on September 24, 2018, while the intended life of the mission was just six months. Over the years, over 980 pictures that were released to the public were collected by MOM’s MCC. The investigation is still in good shape and nominally continues to run.
MOM completed 5 years in orbit around Mars on September 24, 2019, sending 2 terabytes of imaging data, and had ample propellant to complete another year in orbit.
Mangalyaan was able to capture a photograph of the Mars satellite Phobos from 4200km away on July 1, 2020.
In 2014, China referred to India’s successful Mars Orbiter Mission as the “Pride of Asia”. In the science and engineering category, the Mars Orbiter Mission team received the 2015 Space Pioneer Award from the US-based National Space Society.
NSS said the award was given when a Mars mission was successfully conducted by the Indian agency in its first attempt; and the spacecraft is in an elliptical orbit with a high apoapsis where it takes full-disk colour imagery of Mars with its high-resolution camera. In the past, very few complete disc images have ever been obtained, mainly on approach to the planet, as most imaging is performed in mapping mode looking straight down. Such pictures will support planetary scientists.
On the reverse of India’s Rs 2,000 currency note, an illustration of the Mars Orbiter Mission spacecraft is featured.
The cover photo of the November 2016 issue of National Geographic magazine, for their report Mars: Race to the Red Planet, was an illustration taken by the Mars Orbiter Mission spacecraft.
The Follow-Up to India’s Mars Mission
A follow-up mission called Mars Orbiter Mission 2 (MOM-2 or Mangalyaan-2) with a higher scientific payload to Mars will be developed and launched by Isro in 2024.
The orbiter will use aerobraking to minimise the apoapsis of its initial orbit and achieve an altitude more suitable for scientific observation.
India’s Mars Mission within Popular Culture
Mission Mangal, the 2019 Hindi film, is loosely based on India’s Mars mission. A web series called Mission Over Mars is also loosely based on India’s Mars mission.