|MOM (Mars Orbiter Mission) being launched (Pic: PTI)|
Tuesday, November 05, 2013
India's Mars Mission launched successfully
MUMBAI (AA) – Millions of curious Indians were glued to their TV sets on Tuesday as the country's maiden odyssey to Mars was broadcast live on national television.
"The launch rocket has placed the Mars Orbiter spacecraft very precisely into an elliptical orbit around earth," Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) Chairman K Radhakrishnan said from the mission-control center amid thunderous applause.
At 2:38pm local time, India's first inter-planetary satellite, the Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), lifted off from the Satish Dhawan Space Center in Sriharikota, a barrier island off the coast.
The giant rocket rose into a cloudy sky, leaving behind a trail of orange flame and thick dark smoke amid cheers at the mission-control center, located about 7km from the launch site.
Hundreds of scientists, dressed in milky white shirts with "Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV)" inscribed in blue letters on the back, stared intensely at their computer screens, monitoring the MOM's speedy voyage.
The 1,350-kilogram launch vehicle carrying an unmanned probe was monitored by dozens of scientists who spent a sleepless night at the control center.
At 3:22pm, the tension was finally broken with the announcement that the MOM, or Mangalyaan, had completed the fourth crucial stage of entering earth's orbit.
The successful launch marked the 25th mission of the Indian-made PSLV launch vehicle.
India first launched its space program in 1963.
The next ten-day phase, dubbed "orbit raising operations" by scientists, will be crucial for the MOM.
The 1,350-kilogram launch vehicle will orbit earth for nearly one month in order to build up the velocity necessary to break free of the earth's gravitational pull.
On December 1, the orbiter will leave the earth's orbit for a 300-day journey to the red planet.
It is expected to enter the Martian orbit on September 24 of next year. The closest distance between Mars and Earth is about 56 million kilometers.
This second stage of the nine-month journey will test India's technological capability five years after it sent its first unmanned probe to the moon, called Chandrayaan.
The Chandrayaan-1 lunar mission encountered a number of technical difficulties and operated for less than one year, instead of the planned two.
Chandrayaan-1 had carried scientific instruments from a host of countries, including the US, one of which – NASA's Moon Mineralogy Mapper – detected water on the moon's surface.
The MOM instruments, by contrast, were all manufactured in India.
It carries a color camera, a thermal infrared spectrometer, a Mars exospheric neutral composition analyzer, and a lyman alpha photometer.
Ramakrishnan, the ISRO director, described the MOM mission as a baby born of a caesarian operation.
"Now it is the job of the spacecraft team to make sure that the baby remains healthy in space," he said.
The MOM program was unveiled barely 15 months ago by Indian Premier Manmohan Singh, shortly after China's Yinghuo-1 Mars orbiter was destroyed when its carrier spacecraft – Russia's Phobos-Grunt – failed to leave earth orbit.
Singh called the ISRO chairman personally after the successful launch and congratulated the entire ISRO team.
If the Mangalyaan proves a success, India will join an elite club of terrestrial powers to have explored the Red Planet.
Out of a total of 51 Mars missions by various countries, only 21 have been successful to date.
In 1999, Japan's Nozomi Mars spacecraft failed in its bid to orbit the planet.
Anadolu Agency, November 5, 2013