India shows world how to do it in first attempt
Space exploration is the cutting edge of technology and on September 24, 2014 the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) made a landmark by successfully placing its first Mars Orbiter Mission or Mangalyaan in the red planet\'s orbit in its maiden attempt while its more famous counterparts from the USA, Europe and Russia had to witness several failures.
New Delhi: Space exploration is the cutting edge of technology and on September 24, 2014 the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) made a landmark by successfully placing its first Mars Orbiter Mission or Mangalyaan in the red planet's orbit in its maiden attempt while its more famous counterparts from the USA, Europe and Russia had to witness several failures.
Even pioneer space agencies like USA's National Aeronautics Space Administration (NASA), Europe's European Space Agency and Russia' Roscosmos were unable to reach the red planet in their maiden attempt.
The cost effective and indigenously built Mangalyaan travelled a distance of 650 crore kms for over 300 days to reach its destination on the September 24. The US $67 million (Rs 450 crore) Mars Orbiter Mission, which is much less than the cost of any Mars mission undertaken by other space agencies, will explore the planet's surface features, morphology, mineralogy and its atmosphere by indigenous scientific instruments.
NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN), which reached the red planet just 48 hours before Mangalyaan entered the planet's orbit, is worth US $671 million.
MAVEN was launched in November 2013 with an objective to greatly enhance understanding of Mars' climate history by providing a comprehensive picture of the planet's upper atmosphere, ionosphere, solar energy drivers and atmospheric losses.
The ESA spent just $386 million on Mars Express and it included the launch, the spacecraft, the scientific payload (including the lander) and operations. It was launched on June 2, 2003.
In November 2011, Russia's Phobos-Grunt space probe suffered a debilitating malfunction shortly after its launch, which stranded it in low-Earth orbit for more than two months before it succumbed to gravitational forces and plummeted through the atmosphere on January 15. The $165 million spacecraft reportedly broke apart over the Pacific Ocean.
Japanese's first Mars explorer NOZOMI also failed to reach Mars. On July 4, 1998, the explorer was launched but due to frequent problems, the systems required to enter orbit around Mars did not work. Every possible effort to restore NOZOMI failed and it became an artificial planet that flies forever in orbit around the Sun near that of Mars. Even the Hollywood sci-fi movie 'Gravity' cost more than Mangalyaan. The production cost of the movie was around US $100 million.
Mangalyaan has had a completely flawless journey through the space since its launch on November 5, 2013. The spacecraft will send the first pictures back to the ISRO headquarters in Bangalore by Wednesday evening. The spacecraft can be as close as just 80 kms from the planet during its orbit.
Reality in three years
Three years ago, V Adimurthy wrote a feasibility report, the first ever, on a mission to Mars. Today, when India's Mars orbiter Mangalyaan successfully entered the red planet's orbit, he said, "It is a dream come true." Dr Adimurthy said the journey from report to reality in one lifetime is rare. He described the Mangalyaan mission as a "well-conceived mission. We wanted to reach this place in the shortest possible time." He exulted in the fact that India has seen success in its first attempt, noting that the success rate of missions to Mars has not been encouraging.
India vs others
India's space programme was launched in the early 1960s and the country developed its own rocket technology after Western powers imposed sanctions for a nuclear weapons test in 1974. Still, the country remains a small player in the global space industry that grew to $314 billion in revenues and government budgets in 2013, according to Colorado-based Space Foundation. Experts say Mars mission success can help change that. "ISRO will now hopefully attract a lot of business," said Mayank N. Vahia, a scientist at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research.