India has joined the Mars race with its Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) reaching Mars. For those of you who didn’t follow the news or are unaware of MOM; it was launched on 5th November 2013 from the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) Satish Dhawan Space Centre located on the island of Sriharikota by means of a PSLV-C25 rocket. Why are we talking about it right now? Because after almost a year of travelling, the probe has entered the orbit around Mars on Wednesday at 02:29 GMT as confirmed by ISRO after a 24 minute and 14 second of engine run.
With MOM entering the orbit of Mars, the number of spacecrafts that are active and busy in studying the Red Planet has increased to eight. According to ISRO, the engine burn was quite a difficult feat to pull off since owing to the orbital mechanics and laws pertaining to it, the engines that are autonomous in nature had to execute the ‘burn’ while the probe was behind Mars and had no telemetry contact with Earth. So, in simple words; if the engines cranked up at the wrong time or with an error MOM would have either turned into ash thanks to Martian atmosphere or would have been hurled back into the deep space. However, ISRO was relieved after making contact with the MOM and finding out that it has managed to enter the required elliptical orbit 423 x 80,000 km and a period of 3.2 Earth days.
MOM is India’s first interplanetary mission. The mission was executed to demonstrate the capabilities of republic and to convey what it is capable of doing when it comes to space science. ISRO tested the Liquid Apogee Motor (LAM) on Monday for 3.968-second to make sure that the engine was working fine after being dormant for a number of months. According to ISRO, the successful entering executed by MOM has marked the first time that a power, spacefaring, managed to pull off a successful arrival at Mars on the first attempt.
The five-instrument suite shall begin operation and studying of the surface and atmosphere of Mars now that MOM is in Martian orbit. The focus of the MOM will be on calculating the amount of methane that is on Mars since methane is a fundamental indicator of microbial life. Check out the youtube video below for more.