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Vanita Srivastava, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, February 04, 2014
After a flight of almost three months, India’s maiden spacecraft to Mars – Mangalyaan – is healthy, on track and at a distance of 14.4 million kms from Earth.

“Another 233 days for MOM (Mars Orbiter Mission) to reach Mars. MOM is 14.4 million km away from Earth and moving at a velocity of 31.3 km/s with respect to Sun. As of now, a signal traveling at the speed of light takes around 48 seconds to reach MOM,” the Isro Facebook site on the Mars mission site reads.

India’s space programme reached a major milestone on November 5 last year, when Isro launched the MOM, commonly known as Mangalyaan from Sriharikota on a 11-month journey to find evidence of life on the Red Planet and position it as a budget player in the global space race.

“The spacecraft is absolutely healthy, on track  and continuously being  monitored. We are getting data from the Spacecraft Control Centre at Isro Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network in Bengaluru beside the three ground stations of Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Madrid, Goldstone (California) and Canberra,” programme director Dr Mylswamy Annadurai  told HT.

Maintaining that the next challenge for scientists would come on September 24, when the spacecraft will  have to be energised  after a hibernation of 9 months, he said: “The firing at that time will last for nearly 1500 seconds (25 minutes). The Mars Orbiter Insertion would be a major challenge for us but we have done a lot of ground simulation for that.” Probes to Mars have a high failure rate.

Of the 51 missions so far, only 21 have been successful. A similar mission by China failed in 2011.

Only the US, Europe, and Russia have sent probes that have orbited or landed on the planet.

Once in Mars’ orbit, the orbiter’s five payloads will then start performing experiments for the next six months.