GRAVITY movie vs Mangalyan who outlived

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Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), the Mars Orbiter (aka Mangalyaan) successfully made it to the Red Planet’s orbit on September 24, 2014, making the Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) a success at the very first attempt. Dubbed as less budget than the movie Gravity, Today it celebrates four years of being there. How do we know? The Mars Orbiter sent out a tweet yesterday reading,

“It’s been 4 years since I am around! Thank you for your love and support.”

The orbiter’s tweet included a picture of Olympus Mons, the tallest planetary mountain in the entire Solar System. At its summit, the mountain is 21 kilometers in height. The picture was taken on March 18 this year through the Mars Colour Camera (MCC) from an altitude of 8,387 kilometers. In the picture, one can see the cloud formation around the Olympus Mons.

Mars Orbiter included a message from ISRO that reads,

“#MOM’s mission life was expected to be six months! So far, the Mars Colour Camera has acquired 980+ images. Mars Atlas is also ready.”

The orbiter has spent over 1,000 sols going around the Red Planet. It is by far the only artificial Martian satellite to capture an image of the full disc of Mars in a single frame. It’s also the only artificial Martian satellite to capture an image of the far side of Deimos, one of Mars’ two moons.

From our recent reports on ISRO, it’s clear the space agency has many big plans for the coming months. To start with, the chairman of ISRO, Dr K Sivan, believes that with the launch of three new satellites India will get access to internet at speeds of over 100 Gbps before the end of next year. During ISRO’s recent launch of two British satellites earlier this month, the agency mentioned its plans to push a total of 18 more satellites into space in the next six months.

Mangalyaan, it is India’s first interplanetary mission. After its launch, ISRO became the fourth space agency in the world to reach Mars after Russia (Soviet Space Program), the USA (NASA) and the European Space Agency. Consequently, India is the only country in the world to achieve this successfully on its first attempt. It costs approximately Rs 450 Crores to make this, the least expensive Mars mission in history.

MOM is built with full autonomy to take care of itself for long periods without any ground intervention. The spacecraft came out of communication ‘blackout’ during this period. MOM is the only Martian artificial satellite which could image the full disc of Mars in one view frame and also image the far side of the Martian moon Deimos. The Mars Colour Camera has acquired over 980 images so far. The mission has also helped scientists successfully prepare a global atlas of Mars

India’s mission to Mars has completed four years in the orbit. The “Mission Mangalyaan”, also known as the Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) was initially estimated to survive around six months, but it is still active and has captured the seasonal variations of the red planet for two Martian years.

India was the first nation to reach Mars on a maiden attempt.

Its five payloads are functioning well, said an ISRO official. One of the main objectives of the first Indian mission to Mars is to develop the technologies required for designing, planning, management and operations of an interplanetary mission.

As far as technological objectives are concerned, design and realization of a Mars Orbiter with a capability to survive and perform Earth-bound manoeuvres include cruise phase of 300 days, Mars orbit insertion/capture, and on-orbit phase around Mars.

The scientific objectives for exploration of the Mars surface include features, morphology, mineralogy and Martian atmosphere by indigenous scientific instruments.

The Rs 4.50 billion-mission was launched with the PSLV-C25 rocket from Sathish Dhawan Space Center in Sriharikota on November 5, 2013. After crossing more than 660 million km in 300 days, it entered into the Mars orbit on September 24, 2014.

ISRO officials have said that Mars orbiter Mission (MOM) is taking pictures with Mars Colour Camera and ISRO is able to view the seasonal variations of the Mars for two Martian years. ISRO also released a Mars Atlas with several images of the planet.

Currently, Indian and international scientists are analysing the data for traces of Methane, a possible sign of life.

The spacecraft had carried along at least 100 kg of fuel for contingency and orbit corrections and the fuel is still left in abundance. One of the key reasons for the long survival was ISRO’s ability to do manoeuvres without wasting the fuel.

So far, the spacecraft had survived the passing of comet Siding Spring, avoided a long eclipse that could have potentially exhausted its batteries and survived the communication blackout due to the solar conjunction for a period of one month from June to July in 2015.

During the solar conjunction, MOM was commanded with autonomy features without any ground commands or intervention. The long eclipse was avoided by a course correction, which reduced the eclipse period from as long as eight hours to zero.

ISRO is now planning to send a bigger spacecraft with heavier scientific payloads to Mars.

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