Mars Orbiter Crosses Half-way Mark on Journey to Red Planet
Even as Mars prepares to line up opposite to Earth and in line with the Sun, India’s Mars Orbiter has travelled half the distance towards the red planet without glitches so far, said an official press release from the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).
On Wednesday, Mars was at its closest point to Earth, approximately 57 million km away. A phenomenon which occurs every two years, Mars reaches the ‘opposition’ point in its orbit around the Sun. Stargazers can see the Sun setting in the west and Mars in the east during this time.
Since the Orbiter set out on its journey to Mars on December 1 last year, it has travelled close to 340 million km. ISRO said that it crossed the half-way mark at 9.50 am on Wednesday.
Assisted by the Deep Space Network maintained by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory of NASA, ISRO has been continuously monitoring the progress of the orbiter and it was decided that no trajectory correction manoeuvre (TCM) was needed at this time. “If required, the next TCM is planned to be carried out in June,” ISRO officials said.
“Periodic tests are being done on different levels of autonomy built into the spacecraft. At present, the radio distance between the spacecraft and Earth is 39 million km. A signal from Earth to the spacecraft and back takes four minutes 15 seconds,” the statement said.
A high gain antenna installed for long-range communications will soon be made operational for further commands to the Orbiter.
So far, the mission has progressed as planned and the Orbiter is slated for insertion into the Martian orbit by September 24.