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Mars Orbiter Mission (Mangalyaan): India’s Incredible Stellar Odyssey

Mars Orbiter mission

Space exploration has long fascinated humanity, and reaching Mars has been a significant goal for many countries. In 2013, India joined this quest with the Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), also known as Mangalyaan. This mission marked India’s first interplanetary venture and put the country on the map as a contender in the realm of space exploration. This article delves into the journey of the Mars Orbiter Mission and its contributions to our understanding of the Red Planet.

What is the Mars Orbiter Mission?

The Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), dubbed “Mangalyaan” (meaning Mars-craft in Sanskrit), is a spacecraft orbiting Mars since September 2014. The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) launched this mission, making India the first Asian country to reach Mars and the first in the world to do so on its first attempt.

Mangalyaan’s main objective is to showcase India’s rocket launch systems, spacecraft-building, and operations capabilities. However, it also aims to explore Mars’ surface features, morphology, mineralogy, and Martian atmosphere using indigenous scientific instruments.

 The Launch and Journey to Mars

Mangalyaan was launched on November 5, 2013, from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, India, aboard a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV). The spacecraft then followed a Hohmann transfer orbit to escape Earth’s gravitational pull and begin its journey to Mars.

After traveling for nearly 300 days and covering a distance of about 670 million kilometers, Mangalyaan entered Mars’ orbit on September 24, 2014. This achievement was a testament to ISRO’s technological prowess and careful planning.

 

Scientific Instruments Aboard Mangalyaan (Mars Orbiter Mission )

Mangalyaan carries five scientific instruments to gather data about Mars:

1. Mars Colour Camera (MCC): Takes color images and provides information about the surface features and composition of Martian soil.

2. Thermal Infrared Imaging Spectrometer (TIS): Measures the thermal emission and can be used to identify surface composition and mineralogy of Mars.

3. Methane Sensor for Mars (MSM): Designed to measure methane in Mars’ atmosphere and map its sources.

4. Mars Exospheric Neutral Composition Analyser (MENCA): A quadrupole mass analyzer capable of analyzing the neutral composition of particles in Mars’ exosphere.

5. Lyman Alpha Photometer (LAP): Measures the relative abundance of deuterium and hydrogen in Mars’ upper atmosphere.

 

The following table provides a summary of these instruments:

Instrument                                                                                                              Purpose

Mars Colour Camera (MCC)                                                                               Image capture and surface analysis
Thermal Infrared Imaging Spectrometer (TIS)                                              Surface composition and mineralogy
Methane Sensor for Mars (MSM)                                                                      Methane detection and mapping
Mars Exospheric Neutral Composition Analyser (MENCA)                        Exosphere particle analysis
Lyman Alpha Photometer (LAP)                                                                       Deuterium to Hydrogen ratio measurement

Discoveries and Achievements

Despite being a technology demonstrator project, Mangalyaan has made substantial scientific contributions. In Mars Orbiter Mission,  The Methane Sensor for Mars has been scouring the Martian atmosphere for methane, a gas that on Earth is strongly tied to life. Although the findings have been inconclusive, the data gathered will be invaluable for future Mars missions.

The Mars Colour Camera has provided more than 2,000 stunning images of Mars, including a full-disc image of Mars taken from an altitude of 66,543 kilometers, showing Martian surface features and weather patterns. The data from the Thermal Infrared Imaging Spectrometer has helped to understand the surface composition and mineralogy of Mars.

 

The Mars Orbiter Mission marks a significant milestone in India’s space exploration journey. Despite being ISRO’s first interplanetary mission, Mangalyaan has been a resounding success, delivering valuable data about Mars and capturing breathtaking images of the Red Planet. Furthermore, it has demonstrated India’s capabilities in space exploration and set the stage for more ambitious missions in the future.

As of now, Mangalyaan continues to orbit Mars and send back data, contributing to our understanding of the Red Planet. The mission has not only been a technological and scientific achievement but also a source of national pride and a beacon of inspiration for future generations of scientists and engineers in India.

Mangalyaan’s journey to Mars is an emblem of human ingenuity and a testament to what we can achieve when we dare to dream big. As we continue to explore the vast expanse of space, missions like the Mars Orbiter Mission remind us of how far we’ve come and how much farther we can go.

 

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