On 5 November 2013 as soon as the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) launched the Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) into space, history was created, as India had successfully launched a space explorer to Mars in its first attempt. Before this, several other countries have also tried to launch their space probes too, but none of them was successful in their first attempt. After Soviet space program, NASA and European Space Agency, ISRO became the fourth space agency to reach Mars. Mars Orbiter Mission also known as “Mangalyaan” is India’s first interplanetary mission. With this India became the first Asian nation to reach Mars. MOM is orbiting the Mars since 24 September 2014.
The total cost of this MOM was estimated to be ₹450 Crore (the US $73 million); making it the least expensive Mars mission to date. This low cost as credited by K. Radhakrishnan the chairperson of ISRO to various factors including a “modular approach”, long working hours of the scientists and few ground tests.
The primary objective of this mission is to develop technologies for designing, planning, management and operations of an interplanetary mission. However, its secondary objective is to explore the surface of Mars for its features, morphology, mineralogy, and atmosphere using native scientific instruments.
Some of its design specifications are as follows:
• Mass: The lift-off mass of MOM was 1,337.2 kg (2,948 lb), including 852 kg (1,878 lb) of its propellant.
• Power: Electric power is generated by three solar array panels of 1.8 m × 1.4 m (5 ft 11 in × 4 ft 7 in) each (7.56 m2) and the generated electricity is stored in a 36 Ah Lithium-ion battery.
• Bus: The space probe’s bus is a modified I-1 K structure and propulsion hardware configuration. The satellite structure is constructed from aluminum and Composite Fiber Reinforced Plastic (CFRP) sandwich construction.
The orbiter also has eight 22-N thrusters for attitude control. Its propellant mass at launch was measured to be 852 kg (1,878 lb).
The Geocentric phase of MOM ended on 30 November 2013 and heliocentric phase commenced from December 2013. The areocentric phase of the Indian MOM started on 24 September 2014. MOM is planned for 6 months however, it has elapsed about 3 years 2 months up till now.
As originally planned, ISRO wanted to launch the MOM on its Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) but due to its failure earlier ISRO decided to launch MOM through less powerful Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV). As PSLV was not powerful enough to place the space probe on a direct to Mars trajectory, the spacecraft was launched into a highly elliptical Earth orbit. MOM then used its own thrusters to place itself on the Mars trajectory. ISRO’s PSLV-XL placed the satellite into Earth’s orbit at 09:50 UTC on 5 November 2013. Although it was first decided that MOM would be launched on 19 October 2013 but it was postponed afterward.
The probe traveled a distance of about 780,000,000 kilometers to reach Mars. On 28 September 2014, MOM controllers published the space probe’s first global view of Mars. This image was captured by Mars Color Camera (MCC). On 24 September 2015, ISRO released its “Mars Atlas“, a scientific atlas containing images and data from the Mars Orbiter Mission’s first year in orbit all these images were captured using the Mars Color Camera. On 17 January 2017, MOM’s orbit was changed in order to avoid the impending eclipse season. On 19 May 2017, MOM reached 1,000 days in orbit around Mars. In that time, the spacecraft completed 388 orbits of the planet and relayed more than 715 images back to Earth.
The Mars Orbiter Mission team won US-based National Space Society’s 2015 Space Pioneer Award in the science and engineering category.
ISRO plans to launch a follow-up mission named “Mangalyaan-2” by 2020.