India’s Mars Orbiter Successfully Escapes Earth’s Orbit
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports – Your Universe Online
India’s Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) left Earth’s orbit early Sunday morning, officially beginning its 300 day, 485 million mile trek to the Red Planet, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has confirmed.
MOM, which is also known as Mangalyaan, fired its main engine for over 20 minutes in order to achieve the velocity required to leave Earth’s orbit, according to BBC News reports. It is currently scheduled to arrive at Mars on September 24, 2014.
The $72 million probe was designed to demonstrate that the ISRO has the technological capability to reach Mars orbit. However, it is also scheduled to complete a series of scientific experiments, including analyzing the planet’s atmosphere in search for methane gas, the British news outlet added.
“The Earth orbiting phase of the spacecraft ended. The spacecraft is now on a course to encounter Mars after a journey of about 10 months around the sun,” the ISRO said in a statement, according to the Associated Press (AP). All systems onboard the 3,000-pound MOM probe were said to be functioning normally.
Mangalyaan, which means “Mars craft” in Hindi, successfully launched from the Satish Dhawan Space Center at 2:38pm local time on November 5. Its payload includes five scientific instruments: the Lyman Alpha Photometer (LAP), Methane Sensor for Mars (MSM), Mars Exospheric Neutral Composition Analyzer (MENCA), Mars Color Camera (MCC) and Thermal Infrared Imaging Spectrometer (TIS).
In addition to making India just the fourth space program to reach Mars (joining NASA, Roscosmos and the ESA), analysts tell Reuters the mission will help the ISRO to showcase their less-expensive technology. The MOM mission costs just one-tenth that of the US space agency’s latest Mars mission, and if successful it could help India secure a larger share of the $300-plus billion global space market, such as launching satellites for other countries.
ISRO chairman K. Radhakrishnan told the AFP news agency the probe’s successful departure from Earth’s orbit was a “major step” forward in the country’s space program. “(It is) a turning point for us, as India will foray into the vast interplanetary space for the first time with an indigenous spacecraft to demonstrate our technological capabilities,” he added.
Two of the three major phases of the Mars mission have now been successfully completed, ISRO’s spaceport director M.Y.S. Prasad told the French news agency. “The third important phase,” Prasad added, “will be the capturing of Martian orbit in September 2014 for the five scientific experiments.”