Bangalore / Washington (ISJ) ? Man's curiosity to explore outer space reaches a decisive stage, with two exploratory missions landing the Mars ? the red planet. While NASA's Mars Curiosity Rover has landed on Mount Sharp, a Mount-Rainer-size mountain at the centre of the vast Gale Carter, India's maiden interplanetary spacecraft will enter into Mars Orbit on September 24, covering a distance of 680 million kilometres in 322 days.
Mars Orbiter Mission is India's first interplanetary mission to the Red Planet with the spacecraft designed to orbit the planet in an elliptical orbit of 372 km. by 80,000 km. The primary objective of the mission is to showcase India's technological prowess to design a spacecraft, which can reach Mars (Martian transfer Trajectory) and orbit around taking about nine months? time. Another key technological challenge is to realize deep space mission planning and communication management at a distance of nearly 400 million kms. The Mission will also conduct meaningful experiments to look for signs of life, take pictures of the red planet and study Martian environment.
On the other hand Curiosity mission, launched on November 26, 2011, will determine the planet's "habitability". It will assess if Mars ever had an environment able to support small life forms called microbes. The Mars Exploration Rover Project is one element of NASA's ongoing preparation for a human mission to the Red Planet in the 2030s.
"Curiosity now will begin a new chapter from an already outstanding introduction to the world," said Jim Green, director of NASA's Planetary Science Division at its Headquarters in Washington. "After a historic and innovative landing along with its successful science discoveries, the scientific sequel is upon us."
The countdown for Indian Space Research Organisation?s (ISRO) Mars Orbit insertion has already begun, with space scientists at ISRO's Telemetry Tracking and Command Network near Bangalore uploading commands to test-fire the liquid apogee motor (LAM) engine for four seconds. It will be put to its ultimate test three days later ? firing for 24 minutes to slow down the spacecraft and inject it into the Martial Orbit.
If ISRO scientists succeeds in their mission to pull it off, India will be the first country to do on debut, unlike earlier missions by US, Russia and the EU Space Agency, who succeeded after several attempts.
- By N.B. Nair
With inputs from NASA
Image courtesy: Mount Sharp - NASA