Roopa MV looks at the screen in front of her in the mission control room at the Isro Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network, as it shows a graphical representation of the Mars Orbiter Mission’s (MOM) entry into Mars.
“We have finished uploading the commands to the spacecraft, which are now being verified,” says Roopa, the spacecraft operation manager for MOM — better known as Mangalyaan.
There is visible anxiety among the scientists as the nine-month period after the launch of Mangalyaan comes to an end next Wednesday. “Anxiety will obviously be there. But if you are well prepared for the exam, your confidence level also increases,” says M Annadurai, programme director, Isro.
Before the Mangalyaan enters Mars on September 24, Isro scientists will have to endure nail-biting prelims on September 22, when the spacecraft enters the sphere of influence of Mars, which will essentially involve ‘waking ‘ up the 440 Newton liquid apogee motor (LAM) that has been in slumber for nearly 300 days.
“The engine will be fired for nearly 4 seconds and almost half a kg of fuel will be needed for this operation,” says Koteshwar Rao, scientific secretary, Isro.
“We are confident that it will work. But just in case it does not, we have a Plan B which involves firing the eight thrusters. This however will entail a longer firing period and will need more fuel,” he adds.
Besides the LAM firing, the fourth and the final trajectory-correction manoeuvre has also been planned for September 22.Isro launched Mangalyaan on November 5 last year to find evidence of life on the red planet and position itself as a budget player in the global space race. If the mission succeeds, India will receive the first photographs of Mars by the afternoon of September 24.