Finally, after many years of hard work and research, India has become the first country to successfully put a spacecraft around Mars in its first attempt. The ambitious Rs. 460 crore Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) was launched on November 5, 2013, had a perfect Mars Orbit Insertion (MOI) to get captured into the Mars orbit. The Liquid Apogee Motor (LAM) and the eight small thrusters on board India’s orbiter to Mars was ignited on time at 7.17 a.m. The spacecraft’s velocity was slowed down 1.09 metres per second against the targeted 1.1 metres per second. At the end of the burn-time of 24 minutes, the spacecraft was inserted into the Martian orbit. The happiness on scientists face was worth capturing. Though, there was lots of politics over this success, just because of PM Modi’s presence there. BJP tried to give whole credit to his leader but if politician has to be given credit, then it should be Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. Because, when Indians were looking at cosmic objects as a tool in astrological prediction, he had the courage and scientific temperament to think big and established ISRO. Investing for space research in fifties, by a country which was having hunger deaths and poverty, this decision was not so easy. No minister is ever made in charge of ISRO since Nehru’s time. It has always been directly under the PM. It is Nehru who handpicked Vikram Sarabhai to head ISRO. Incidentally, it is the same visionary who brought Homi Baba to head atomic research and who established the IITs and all major research institutions in the country. None of his successors including his own daughter and grandson never had the scientific orientation possessed by Nehru. Let us home, the new PM shows interest in science.
It’s a proud day for India and Indian scientists. The fact which makes this mission unique is that, India is the first country that has successfully completed the mission in its maiden attempt. India has achieved this feat in 18 months, whereas other similar missions took at least 24-30 months. It is the cheapest mission as compared with the Mars Missions of other space agencies. The whole mission used indigenous technology which made it more important achievement. India has successfully reached Mars. History has been created today. We have reached the unknown and achieved the impossible. This can be good news for Indian cosmologists and astrophysicists who, like many other scientists in India, have been clamoring for a hike in research and development funding since the early 1990s.
Until the Mars mission, ISRO functioned as a FedEx-for-space, launching the scientific instrument cargo, or scientific payload, of other countries, and Indian telecommunication and meteorological satellites into orbit around Earth using largely its Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) rockets. Since 1993, PSLV rockets have launched 65 satellites in 25 launches, including India’s Moon and Mars missions. MOM’s success has helped India show up China to assert itself as a regional space-power that not only markets itself as a low-cost hub, but also as a country that can set the agenda for regional cooperation.
After a 650-million kilometer journey pampered with uncharacteristic attention, the Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) put itself into orbit around the red planet. That means for the first time a space agency has put a spacecraft around Mars on its first attempt (NASA took two attempts to get so far; the Soviet Union, three).Now that it’s delivered a payload into orbit around a neighbouring planet, the Indian Space Research Organisation, ISRO, has convinced the world it can also plan and execute long-term missions and the associated logistical nightmares. The achievement has important consequences for scientific and political reasons, but we must be careful not to overstate this capability.
For instance, while all of MOM weighed 1,500 kg, its scientific payload was just 15 kg. In comparison, the NASA Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) space probe that got into orbit around Mars on September 21 weighed 2,454 kg and its scientific payload, 65 kg.
On a more cautious note, the mission draws the Indian government’s attention to the scientific payloads India can currently launch. The PSLV series of rockets are built to carry payloads of up to about 1,500 kg to the geostationary transfer orbit, which is as high as MOM needed to go before switching to a heliocentric orbit. These places direct limits on what kinds of instruments ISRO can or can’t send up. Second, the mission was executed in a really short span of time. A feasibility study was conducted in 2010, the federal approval received in 2012, and the payload launched a year later, all on a feeble budget of about $74 million. That’s one-ninth the cost of the MAVEN space probe, $670 million. These bespeaks its original purpose being a demonstration of the perseverance of ISRO personnel, especially considering everything else about the mission was a cobbling together of well-tested components. That MOM had a scientific payload on board seems incidental even if its observations will soon be the center of (much less) attention.
The GSLV is expected to be able to carry at most 1,000 kg more to the geostationary transfer orbit than the PSLV. The difference – in capability as well as complexity – lies with the engines. The PSLV has a four-stage engine with alternating solid and liquid stages. The GSLV has a three-stage engine of solid, liquid and cryogenic stages. The cryogenic stage has been the stumbling block because it had to be indigenously developed and its first successful flight was only in January this year. Hopefully, the program will become more reliable in the next decade, and that’s when India’s claims about being a space-superpower can take off, too.
Source – scienceline.org