BENGALURU: The country's low-cost Mars mission spacecraft that is in a rendezvous with the Red planet for an extended period has enough fuel for it to last "many years", Indian Space Research Organisation Chairman Kiran Kumar said today.
"....now it will be surviving for many years," Kumar told reporters here on the sidelines of Indian Institute of Science Alumni Global Conference 2015 'Science for Society' here. He said, "still about 45 kg of fuel is left; ...we are hardly using the fuel, fuel requirement is very small."
"Originally with the kind of fuel we had carried, we were not expecting that we will be able to complete the mission for more than six months," he said. Elaborating, he said right from launch till the spacecraft was inserted into the desired orbit, many difficulties could have been encountered "in which case we would have spent more fuel....but it didn't happen right from the beginning through the whole process."
The spacecraft's life was extended for another six months in March due to surplus fuel. Scripting space history, India on September 24 last successfully placed the low-cost Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) spacecraft in orbit around the Mars in its very first attempt, breaking into an elite club. ISRO had launched the spacecraft on its nine-month-long odyssey on a homegrown PSLV rocket from Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh on November 5, 2013 and it had escaped the earth's gravitational field on December 1, 2013.
Kumar said "there was no untoward incidents, no failures; ....even when you launch you have to give some margin for launch error that also was not there. So we were able to save fuel right from beginning till insertion." "Now we have saved, almost 45 kg is there. It will last for many years," he added. He however did not exactly specify how long the spacecraft's life can be further extended.
Asked to specify the time frame, he said "we will go one step at a time. We had told the longest duration of gap of communication was this one (June 8-22). Now this we have survived. Next similar event will be two-and-half years later."
Questioned whether it can last two-and-half years, he said "...it should." From June 8 to 22, the MOM was in "blackout" phase snapping communication with the satellite, as the sun had blocked Mars from the Earth. MOM during this period went into an "autonomous mode". "It (satellite) has come out (of eclipse), it has survived longest gap of communication link, now we are getting signals back from the satellite; ....from June 19 onwards we are getting signals," Kumar said.
Stating that the intended objective of the mission will continue during the extended life span, he said "it will continue. We will get more data as bonus, and we will get more information with respect to the seasons on the mars itself. Different periods of the year for the Mars- we will be able to collect the data."
To a question on the findings of the mission so far, Kumar said, "we have found out many things, but it will take time (for validation and then announcement)...." "See, it (satellite) completes once in three days an orbit, now hundred orbits we have completed....the amount of pictures that are collected from the MCC (Mars Color Camera) is about 400 frames of images and every orbit certain specific period we collect data on the Mars Spectrometer, Lyman Alpha Photometer, and also the Thermal Infrared Imaging Spectrometer and the Methane Sensor, so it keeps getting accumulated,".