Rocking start to Mission Mars lifts India's spirits

PSLV-C25 takes 44.18 minutes to inject Orbiter in elliptical path; series of six manoeuvres to raise craft to hyperbolic trajectory to begin on Thursday; probe to reach Red Planet on Sept 24 next yr

Published: 06th November 2013 11:25 AM  |   Last Updated: 06th November 2013 11:25 AM   |  A+A-

India’s first inter-planetary mission took an important step on Tuesday, when the PSLV-C25 placed the Mars Orbiter Mission in orbit around the Earth.

Following the successful launch, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is now set to start a series of manoeuvres to raise the orbit of the craft before setting it off on a 300-day journey to the Red Planet. The operational phase of the Mars Mission will begin only Thursday, when ISRO starts a series of six manoeuvres to raise the spacecraft from its elliptical parking orbit to a departure hyperbolic trajectory. The Mars Mission will bid its final goodbye to Earth’s gravitational pull on December 1, when a final thrust will raise its velocity to 1.3 km/second. Once it leaves Earth’s sphere of influence, the Mars Mission will only be under the gravitational pull of the Sun, till its scheduled entry in Mars orbit on September 24, 2014.

With a long way ahead and a number of critical moments left before it can be declared a success, the Orbiter Mission had an excellent start aboard the PSLV-C25. The launch was the silver jubilee mission of ISRO’s reliable PSLV workhorse. The PSLV-C25 injected the Mars Orbiter into the Earth’s orbit with very minor deviations from the planned parameters. It featured a PSLV-XL, the most powerful variant of the PSLV stable, which was used to launch the successful moon mission Chandrayaan-1.

The PSLV-C25, however, featured a number of improvisations to suit the needs of the Mars Mission. Primary among these were changes to the PSLV so that it could successfully carry out a flight twice the usual. The PSLV-C25 took 44 minutes and 18 seconds, rising in a east-by-southeast direction from the launchpad in Sriharikota, to inject the Mars Orbiter Mission into the elliptical orbit.

ISRO said the focus of the operational phase would be to ensure that the Mars Mission reaches the Red Planet having used the least energy possible. That would be a display of India’s ability to conceive, develop and execute complex space missions, said ISRO Chairman K Radhakrishnan.

Given the vast distance that the Orbiter would traverse, ISRO has had to give it a fair degree of autonomy in decision-making as communication is not going to be in real-time.  On achieving Mars orbit, the focus would shift to the various instruments that are on board the Orbiter, which would carry out a number of information-gathering exercises, such as the detection of methane, the charting of the Martian surface for minerals, the surveying of soil composition, understanding the presence of water on Mars and monitoring weather phenomenon on the planet. 

The ISRO chief and his wife visited Tirumala late Tuesday and will participate in Suprabhata Seva on Wednesday.


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