India?s Mars Mission a month away from the red planet

MangalyaanBangalore (ISJ) ? India?s Mars Orbiter Mission, known as Mangalyaan is on its crucial last lap, before placing it in the orbit around the red planet on September 24.

According to Indian Space Research Organisation, ISRO, the orbiter is close to nine million kilometres away from Mars. ISRO scientists face the challenge to reduce the velocity of the spacecraft to 1.6 km/sec by firing the Liquid Apogee Motor (LAM). LAM is completely different from low power thrusters used in INSAT satellites for regular orbit maintenance, said ISRO in a Facebook post.

?The firing has to be done precisely. When we reduce the spacecraft?s velocity, it should be close enough to Mars for it to be captured by the planet?s gravity,? said a spokesman of ISRO.

This is the most critical phase of the mission as the scientists have to successfully restart the engine after lying idle for the past 300 days.

ISRO has been continuously monitoring the spaceship from the spaceport at Sriharikota, using Indian Deep Space Network near Bangalore.

The spaceship has been moving on the planned trajectory and the last trajectory correction was successfully performed on June 11, 2014. ISRO will take a decision if a third course correction is needed for the spaceship at least 10 days ahead of the planned entry into Mars.

India's first interplanetary spacecraft launched on Nov. 05 was unique in several ways - it is the most cost effective mission ? just 70 million US dollars, as against 2.5 billion US dollar Curiosity Mission by NASA of United States. Only USA, European Union and Russia have succeeded in Mars missions.

The mission objective is to conduct meaningful experiments to look for signs of life on the red planet and study the Martian environment. The launch follows India's successful unmanned mission to the Moon ? Chandrayaan-1 in October 2008. Chandrayaan had sent back evidence of presence of water for the first time.

-- N.B. Nair

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