As D-Day nears, here are five things you need to know about India's Mars Mission

  • Agencies, New Delhi/Chennai
  • Updated: Sep 16, 2014 13:39 IST

India's ambitious Mars Orbiter Mission, scheduled to enter the orbit of the Red Planet on September 24, is in the "pink of health" and sending vital information from 211 million km away after covering 95% of its journey, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has said.

“MOM keeps sending us vital information about the health of its various modules and measurements from sensors. This is called Telemetry signal. The telemetry has confirmed that MOM is in the pink of health,” the Isro posted on Twitter on Saturday.

“MOM uses 2.2m High Gain Antenna to send us signals from the present distance of 211 million kilometre,” it added. The Isro said the spacecraft was less than “four million kilometres” away from mars.

Here are 5 things to know about India's Mars Orbiter Mission:

1. Close to its destination

The MOM will perform the crucial Mars orbit insertion (MOI) manoeuvre when it is in the shadow of Mars. With the solar panels not receiving any sunlight, the battery will then supply all the power required for this operation.

The spacecraft is slated to enter the Mars atmosphere on September 24 around 7.30am. Scientists would undertake a challenging task on September 24 when they would restart the onboard liquid engine, which has been in sleep mode for nearly 300 days, for a critical manoeuvre of the spacecraft.

2. MOM will follow MAVEN on Mars

NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft is expected to enter the orbit around Mars on September 21, three days before the MOM. Both the MOM and the MAVEN were launched into space last year.

3. Objectives

One of the main objectives of the MOM is to develop the technologies required for design, planning, management and operations of an interplanetary mission. The other major objectives of the mission are:

# Deep space communication, navigation, mission planning and management.

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

# The MOM will also study the atmosphere of Mars, using a methane gas sniffer. On Earth, methane can have both geological and biological origins, so detecting it on Mars could suggest the presence of Martian microbes, Indian scientists say.

# The mission will also look at Mars' minerology, morphology and surface features.

3. The payloads

Dissambled view of the MOM spacecraft. Pic courtsey: ISRO website

The MOM carries five scientific payloads to observe the Martian surface, atmosphere and exosphere extending up to 80,000 km for a detailed understanding of the evolution of the planet. These payloads consist of a camera, two spectrometers, a radiometer and a photometer. Together, they have a weight of about 15 kg.

# Lyman Alpha Photometer (LAP)

The Lyman Alpha Photometer (LAP) is an absorption cell photometer. It measures the relative abundance of deuterium and hydrogen from lyman-alpha emission in the Martian upper atmosphere (typically Exosphere and exobase). Measurement of D/H (Deuterium to Hydrogen abundance Ratio) allows scientists to understand the possible process of loss of water from the planet.

# Mars Color Camera (MCC)

This tri-colour Mars colour camera gives images and information about the surface features and composition of the Martian surface. They are useful to monitor the dynamic events and weather of Mars. The MCC will also be used for probing the two satellites of Mars — Phobos and Deimos. It also provides the context information for other science payloads.

The other components are Mars Exospheric Neutral Composition Analyser (MENCA), Methane Sensor for Mars (MSM) and Thermal Infrared Imaging Spectrometer (TIS).

Dissambled view of the MOM spacecraft. Pic courtsey: ISRO website

4. India’s road to the elite club

Probes to Mars have a high failure rate. Of the 51 missions so far, only 21 have been successful. A similar mission by China, which beat India to the Moon, failed in 2011. Only the US, Europe, and Russia have sent probes that have orbited or landed on the planet.

If the MOM succeeds at entering the orbit around Mars, India will be the fourth international entity credited with accomplishing that task.

5. Cost and size of the mission

The gold-coloured MOM probe is almost the size of a small car. The cost of the mission is $73 million, less than a sixth of the $455 million earmarked for the Nasa’s MAVEN.

Read | Mangalyaan: meet the men behind India’s Mars Mission

Video | ISRO's Mars Orbiter Mission in A Nutshell

(With inputs from PTI, IANS, ISRO website)

(Pic courtesy: ISRO website)

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