India’s Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) has completed 1000 Earth days around the Red Planet as against the initially planned 180 days and according to country’s space agency ISRO the spacecraft is in good shape and has enough fuel to last for more years.
MOM has been sending across stunning imagery as well as data about Mars helping the Indian scientific community to carry out their own research about Mars – something they have been dependent upon NASA for a long time.
The spacecraft was launched on November 5, 2013 by ISRO’s PSLV-C25 rocket. The spacecraft entered Martian atmosphere on September 24, 2014 in its very first attempt after travelling for nine months in space. When the orbiter was launched it had 852 kg of fuel load and as of now it approximately 13-14 kg of fuel left that will extend its life further.
Isro said that 1,000 Earth days correspond to 973.24 Mars Sols (Martian Solar day) and the MOM completed 388 orbits. The ability of MOM to carry on for so many days beyond the initial planned mission indicates there was no fuel leakage and second, the orbiter withstood all the rigours of the difficult journey.
India’s mission to Mars is one of the cheapest ever and was launched to study the Martian surface and mineral composition, and scan its atmosphere for methane, an indicator of life outside earth. The spacecraft has five key scientific instruments. One of the payloads, the Mars colour camera, has produced more than 715 images so far, the space agency said.
While the outcome has been exceptional, the journey was far from smooth. It had faced many hurdles during the mission as it had to go through a communication ‘blackout’ as a result of solar conjunction from June 2, 2015 to July 2. It had also experienced the “whiteout” geometry (when the earth is between the sun and Mars and too much solar radiation may make it impossible to communicate with the earth) during May 18 to May 30, 2016. With 14-15 kg of fuel remaining, Isro is expecting the orbiter to last for some “more years”.
India is now planning its moon mission dubbed Chandrayaan-2 that is scheduled for launch in the first quarter of 2018 (around March-April) and a solar mission dubbed Aditya that is scheduled for a launch in 2018-19.