India on Tuesday launched its first spacecraft bound for Mars, a complex mission that it hopes will demonstrate and advance technologies for space travel.
Hundreds of people watched the rocket carrying the Mars orbiter take off from the east-coast island of Sriharikota and streak across the sky. Many more across the country watched live TV broadcasts.
Officials at the space center described it as a "textbook launch." If the mission is successful, India will become only the fourth nation to visit the red planet after the Soviet Union, the United States and Europe.
"Capturing and igniting the young minds of India and across the globe will be the major return from this mission," mission director P Kunhikrishnan said from the launch site.
• Position: chairman of Isro, secretary in department of space.
• Responsible for leading the mission and overall activities of Isro.
• Quote: "It has been a new and complex mission. The Journey has begun, the challenging phase is going to come."
2. M Annadurai (55)
• Position: programme director, Mars Orbiter Mission.
• Short bio: joined Isro in 1982 and is leading many Remote Sensing and Science missions. He was the project director of Chandrayaan-1 and now Chandrayaan- 2, Indian missions to the Moon.
• Responsible for budget management, direction for spacecraft configuration, schedule and resources.
• Challenge: India's first true inter-planetary mission. Ensuring enough autonomy for the spacecraft to take decisions on its own, negotiate a nearly 50% difference in climatic conditions between Earth and Mars.
3. S Ramakrishnan (64)
• Position: director of Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre and Member Launch Authorisation Board.
• Short bio: joined Isro in August 1972 and he played a key role in the development of PSLV and was responsible for development of liquid propulsion stages and their interfacing with vehicle and launch operations.
• Responsible for realising the rocket (Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle) that would ferry the Mars orbiter.
• Challenge: the launch window was only five minutes. The 28 minutes coasting time of the rocket before the ignition of the fourth engine was also long. The overall launch duration of around 45 minutes is nearly double that of the normal PSLV launches.
• Quote: “From here to go to Mars we are going to use only a fraction of what we did in getting to the (Earth) orbit.”
• Position: director, Isro Satellite Centre.
• Short bio: joined Isro in 1976 and since then has made several contributions to planning and operations of Indian satellite missions . He was the project director for India's first indigenous Deep Space Network antenna.
• Responsible for developing satellite technology and implementing satellite systems for scientific, technological and application missions.
• Quote: "Our baby is up in the space. It was almost like a caesarean."
5. P Kunhikrishnan (52)
• Position: project director, PSLV programme; ninth time as mission director.
• Short bio: joined Isro in 1986 and was the mission director of 8 successful PSLV Missions. He is the mission director of PSLV-C25/Mars Orbiter Mission, scheduled to be launched on November 5.
• Responsible for seeing the rocket completes its mission successfully and that the satellite is correctly injected in the designated orbit.
• Challenge: the orbital characteristic is different from regular PSLV missions. The total duration of the launch was 44 minutes. This required prudent thermal management and protecting the systems and equipment from low temperatures in the space.
• Position: director, Liquid Propulsion system.
• Short bio: joined Isro in 1972. Initially, he worked for the SLV-3 Project during its design phase and later was involved in the development of solid propellant formulations for SLV-3 and over three decades, made rich contribution to the realisation of solid motors for sounding rockets, SLV-3, ASLV and PSLV.
7. AS Kiran Kumar (61)
• Position: director, Satellite Application Centre.
• Short bio: joined Isro in 1975. He has contributed to the design and development of Electro-Optical Imaging Sensors for Airborne, LEO and GEO platform based imaging sensors starting from Bhaskara TV payload to the latest TMC adHySI payloads for Chandrayaan-1 missions.
• Responsible for designing and building three of the orbiter payloads - Mars Colour Camera, Methane Sensor and Thermal Infrared Imaging Spectrometer.
• Challenge: miniaturising the components as the satellite does not provide much space.
• Quote: "We have been successful in completing the first step in the long mission."
8. MYS Prasad (60)
• Position: director, Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Chairman, Launch Authorisation Board.
• Short bio: from 1975 to 1994 he worked in the launch vehicle development programmes of Isro. He was part of the project Ttam of SLV-3, the first indigenously developed launch vehicle of India. He was director of the Master Control Facility of ISRO from 1998 to 2005.
• Responsible for range safety and schedules, overall in-charge at rocket port.
• Challenge: launch during northeast monsoon season, enhanced weather forecasting capability to 10 days, simultaneously carrying out preparatory work for Mars Mission while dismantling the GSLV rocket after the mission was aborted earlier this year.
9. S Arunan (50)
• Position: project director, Mars Orbiter Mission.
• Responsible for leading a team to build the spacecraft.
• Challenge: building a new communication system; making the spacecraft, largely autonomous to take decisions, making the orbiter engine restart after 300 days, designing solar power cells, developing new navigation software.
10. B Jayakumar
• Position: associate project director, PSLV project.
• Responsible for the rocket systems, testing till the final lift-off.
11. MS Pannirselvam (59)
• Position: chief general manager, range operation director at Sriharikota Rocket port.
• Responsible for maintaining launch schedules without any slippages