Indian spacecraft wins Asia’s Mars race

That makes it the only country to enter its orbit on a first attempt; Modi hails scientists, calls it a historic occasion

Bangalore :  India won Asia’s race to Mars when its unmanned Mars Orbiter Mission fondly called ‘MOM’ successfully entered the Red Planet’s orbit in its very first attempt, breaking into an elite club of three nations, after a 10-month journey on a tiny budget.

As ISRO scientists erupted in applause and celebration, an elated Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was with them watching the event, said Mars has now an Indian ‘mother’ adding the ‘MOM’ will never disappoint.

“Today MOM has met Mangal (Mars). Today Mangal has got MOM,” he said.

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Oz let world know India’s success

India and the world got to know about the ‘Mangalyaan’ entering the orbit of Mars from the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex (CDSCC) which was capturing signals from the unmanned spacecraft. Engineers working at the CDSCC played a key role in confirming that the spacecraft entered the orbit of the Red Planet.

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Namaste, tweets Curiosity Rover

As India made history, there was an exchange of tweets between NASA’s 2012 Mars mission Curiosity, ISRO’s Mars Orbiter and NASA’s 2014 Mars mission Maven. While Maven congratulated ISRO for Mars Orbiter, Curiosity welcomed it on the red planet with a ‘Namaste’. “Namaste, @MarsOrbiter! Congratulations to @ISRO and India’s first interplanetary mission upon achieving Mars orbit (sic),” Curiosity Rover tweeted.

Dressed in a red jacket almost reflecting the colour of Mars, the Prime Minister said India has taught the world how technology can be cost effective while also being highly accurate.

“The odds were stacked against us with only 21 of the 51 missions to Mars being successful … But we prevailed. We have gone beyond the boundaries of human enterprise and innovation. We have navigated our craft through a route known to very few,” he said.

“I congratulate the scientists and all my fellow Indians on this historic occasion,” he added as scientists cheered in wild excitement.

He then patted ISRO Chairman K Radhakrishnan and complimented the Indian space scientists for making space history.

The Mars Orbiter Mission spacecraft kept its tryst with the red planet after the hibernating main 440 Newton Liquid Apogee Motor and eight thrusters on board were ignited for 24-minutes from 7.17 am that slowed its benumbing speed to be smoothly captured into the Martian orbit. The speed of the spacecraft was reduced from 22.14 km per second to 4.4 km per second at the ultimate point in its 666 million-km-long travel in relation to the red planet to be captured by the Martian orbit. “Images are clicked. Data is downloaded. Process is going on,” a top ISRO official said in the evening when asked whether the spacecraft had taken pictures of the Mars surface.

European, American and Russian probes have managed to orbit or land on the planet, but after several attempts. The first Chinese Mars mission, called Yinghuo-1, failed in 2011. In 1998, the Japanese mission ran out of fuel and was lost. There was tension when the final firing took place as there was a solar eclipse on Mars for 15 minutes rendering the planet in darkness. As a result, radio link between the spacecraft and earth stations snapped. “As the accelerometers onboard were programmed in advance, the comm-ands were executed automatically,” scientists said.

The spacecraft is cruising in an elliptical orbit 427 km from Mars surface (perapsis) and 78,500km away from it (apoasis).

The Orbiter will take 77 hours or 3.2 earth days to rotate around the red planet over the next six months and for studying its surface and mineral composition and scan its atmosphere for methane gas in search of life-sustaining elements.

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