India’s Mars mission: A history in the making

RSTV Bureau

marsBAs India’s Mars mission moved a step closer to home after the dormant main engine on the spacecraft was testfired flawlessly, ISRO looked confident of giving one final nudge on Wednesday to put it in orbit around Mars that, if successful, would see it make space history.

In the final lap, the operation is scheduled to be performed at 07:17:32 hrs tomorrow by firing the LAM along with eight smaller liquid engines for about 24 minutes.

The tricky manoeuvre involves slowing down the spacecraft now moving at benumbing speed to be captured in the Martian orbit, success of which would make India the first country to go to Mars in the maiden attempt.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will witness the crucial Mars Orbiter Insertion at the Spacecraft Control Centre at ISRO Telemetry Tracking and Command Network (ISTRAC) here.

The main engine on the spacecraft, in slumber since the 300-day journey began, was woken up on Tuesday, though for four seconds after a successful crucial manoeuvre that has raised the confidence level of ISRO scientists.

In the final action tomorrow, the orbiter has to be slowed down from 22.1 km per second to 4.4 km per second in relation to the red planet to be captured by the Martian orbit. The engine would be fired for 24 minutes to reduce its velocity and insert it into the Martian orbit.

India will be the first country to enter the Mars orbit on a maiden mission if it succeeds. It will also be the first Asian country and ISRO the fourth space agency to send a satellite to the Red Planet. European, US and Russian probes have managed to orbit or land on the planet, but after several attempts.

After the crucial manoeuvre on Monday, ISRO Chairman K Radhakrishnan said the spacecraft was “healthy” after completing 98 per cent of its 666 million km journey. “. . . we are now prepared for that crucial operation to take place on September 24 morning.”

The MOM entered the Mars Gravitational Sphere of Influence on Monday. The spacecraft had escaped the earth’s gravity pull on December 1 last year.

As US NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft began orbiting the Red Planet for the second day on Tuesday, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory has conveyed its best wishes to ISRO for Mars Orbit Insertion tomorrow.